This was a fabulous, fast-paced story about the book holder (akin to a stage manager) for an Elizabethan theatre group – Lord Westfield’s men – named Nicholas Bracewell and how, after a friend is brutally murdered, he’s tasked with discovering the identity of the killer and seeking justice.
Ostensibly a murder mystery, this novel is so much more. The wonderful backdrop of the theatre is used to great effect as is the year this story is set – 1588, the year of the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the one in which Elizabeth Ist’s reputation as a sovereign not to be trifled with was cemented.
Replete with wonderful details of the era, of the workings of theatre – from the writing of plays, the commissioning of them, rehearsals, attendance, costuming, and the way in which actors were viewed (at this period in Elizabeth’s reign at least it was with a great deal more respect than even ten years earlier), The Queen’s Head (which is both the name of the inn in which the troupe do most of their performances as well as gesturing to plot) is a rollicking story that brings to life an interesting group of characters, an occupation and way of life that is both exciting, difficult and unpredictable and a period that is celebrated as much for its artistic achievements, science, political turmoil and exploration as it is violence and disease – all of which are affectionately and respectfully acknowledged in this novel.
Loved this gem and have already started the next book, The Merry Devils.