On top of the usual, waggishly presented intrigues facing Elizabethan London's most calamity-prone theater company, Westfield's Men, come still more dire threats, in Edward Marston's The Bawdy Basket: The troupe risks losing both its creative genius and its financial backing. Troubles begin with the execution of Gerald Quilter, a prosperous businessman unjustly convicted of murder, whose son Frank has recently joined Westfield's Men. Despite his fellow actors' misgivings, Frank is determined to clear his father's name, and Nicholas Bracewell, the company's stage manager and resourceful troubleshooter, agrees to help--even if it costs him his job. Meanwhile, playwright Edmund Hoode, renowned for his unrequited romances ("Your whole life is one long, desperate, lovesick sigh," another player reminds him), seems finally to have found a woman to share his heart. Yet she insists that Hoode forsake the stage and pen sonnets solely in her tribute. As disaster looms in his troupe's future, Bracewell's search for reasons behind the framing of Gerald Quilter leads to a young woman peddler, and also attracts the predatory attention of a moneylender anxious to bankrupt the pleasure-seeking patron of Westfield's Men.|
Marston, a prolific author of historical mysteries (also published under his real name, Keith Miles), vividly re-creates the scents and sensibilities of 16th-century England, with carefully applied strokes of humor. This 12th installment of his Nicholas Bracewell series offers fewer insights into its protagonist than did The Silent Woman, and slightly less menace than The Roaring Boy. But its intricate conspiracies and swashbuckling action give The Bawdy Basket dramatic urgency deserving of repeated ovations.
Source: J. Kingston Pierce, Amazon.com.
Westfield's Men, the Elizabethan theater troupe at the heart of Edward Marston's intricate and popular series, are enjoying good fortune in their native London. Their talented playwright is at work on his next opus, set to open in a few short weeks, and the group's trusty stage manager and reliable problem-solver Nicholas Bracewell is looking forward to a productive and calm season.
Unfortunately for Nicholas, his friendship with Frank Quilter, a young actor who's just joined the troupe, is about to cause him a lot of trouble. Frank's father has been arrested and accused of a murder he didn't commit, and before anyone can figure out what to do he's convicted and hanged for his crime. Destroyed, young Frank promises to avenge his father, at the expense of the play Westfield's Men have contracted to perform. Nicholas, who's loyalty is split between the company and his new friend, agrees to help Frank on condition that he fulfill his obligations as an actor.
Enter an unlikely ally in the form of one Moll Comfrey, a comely young saleswoman with more to sell than meets the eye. She has the key to the whole mystery hidden somewhere on her person, and it's up to Nicholas to find out what she's hiding (by whatever means necessary) before the theater, not to mention Frank's life, goes dark.