The third book in the Nicholas Bracewell series by Edward Marston, The Trip the Jerusalem ups the ante by becoming darker and more twisted in terms of plot and character motivation. So much so, it was hard to put down.
The novel opens with London in the grip of plague, so Lord Westfield’s men decide to quit London and try and earn their keep by playing at inns and country houses on the way to “Jerusalem” or York. Knowing they have to reduce the size of their company in order to make the journey viable, they make some tough decisions regarding the actors, decisions that the murder of one of the players throws into disarray.
As per usual it’s not just murder that stalks Lord Westfield’s Men, but mayhem as well as they discover that their arch rivals, Lord Banbury’s men are not only pirating their plays but managing to perform them successfully prior to their arrival at each destination. But when one of their valuable players is kidnapped, other disasters befall the troupe, and strangers join their pilgrimage, bookholder, Nicholas, requires all his intelligence and skills to outwit Banbury’s men, sort out a muddle of relationships and uncover a plot that threatens the crown.
Fast-paced, easy to read and thoroughly enjoyable (there are some laugh out loud moments) this is a terrific edition to a series that is getting better with each instalment. Part of that is because the characters are becoming more familiar and lovable (or not) but also because the language in which the tales are told and the cracking dialogue is reminiscent of Shakespeare’s plays – particularly the comedies – and there’s a richness and boldness about them that’s at once familiar, strange and lovely to read.