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The Queen's Head by Edward Marston
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The Queen's Head (1988)

by Edward Marston

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I started reading this series several books in, but now I got a chance to read the beginning. Nicholas Bracewell has a murder, make that several murders, to investigate while keeping the players of Lord Westfield's Men on their marks. The setting is Elizabethan London and players must have a patron and all their plays must be approved by the Master of the Revels. After a member of the company is murdered and the prompt book of their newest play is stolen, Nicholas must try to discover who is trying to destroy their company. ( )
  SF_fan_mae | Sep 27, 2016 |
Absolutely terrible.

Glbt-interest tag: the sole queer character is a pedophile and child predator. Gender politics tag: female characters are whore (and thus abused or killed), widows (and thus noble), or married (and thus harridans). ( )
  sageness | Feb 7, 2014 |
historical mystery in Elizabethan England in which the detective is the manager of a theater company similar to Shakespeare's. I enjoyed it but somehow have not followed up the others in the series. ( )
  antiquary | Jun 15, 2013 |
First of the Nicholas Bracewell mystery series, set in a theatrical company in Elizabethan London. Bracewell is the bookholder for Lord Westfield's Men, a responsible position in its own right even without the additional tasks taken on by Bracewell. Bracewell finds himself with an unexpected task of the worst kind when his friend and colleague, actor Will Fowler, is called in a tavern brawl. Bracewell is determined to find the killer, but has other equally urgent matters to deal with, not least of which is ensuring nothing goes wrong with the performance of a new play before the Queen herself. Jealous rivalries both within the company and with another company aren't helping matters...

It's an entertaining romp, but unusually for Marston, there were a couple of elements that could be problematic for many readers. They're historically accurate, but nevertheless they need flagging up. One is the portrayal of one of the senior actors as having a taste for pretty boys, and this being tolerated as long as he leaves the company's apprentices alone - which he doesn't. Given other things he's written I don't think Marston intended this, but it does come over as equating "homosexual" with "pedarest". The other is that the book does get into the head of characters with the strong anti-Catholic prejudices one might expect in this time period. ( )
  JulesJones | Oct 27, 2012 |
Starting a new series set in Elizabethan times, The Queen's Head is not exactly an ordinary mystery.

Meet Nicholas Bracewell - the bookholder of the Lord Westfield's Men and an occasional detective (he just happens to be at the proper place at the proper time...). And if he is not illustrious enough, we have a whole set of actors - each of them almost comically and unbelievably weird.

The style takes a while to get used to - especially the conversations. But once you get into the book, even those exaggerated dialogs work and add to the tapestry of the novel. Being the first book in a series makes the Queen's Head a bit slow to start with - even for the style and the period. It picks up as the books progresses but the feeling that you are transported in another era where the Industrial Revolution is yet to happen remains - not only with the actions of the characters but with the storytelling itself.

Marston (one of the pseudonyms of Keith Miles) knows a lot about the Elizabethan times. And about the Elizabethan theater. And he is not afraid to use all that knowledge to set the scene for the novel or to show in excruciating detail the way the theater works. I am not convinced that the actors' weird behaviors were not exaggerated, but on the other hand - considering the times and the customs of the time - most of it can be believable. All the boasting and misadventures of all the main actors and the almost never ending complains of the rest of the group are moving the book closer to the comical genre than to the mystery one. But it does not get there.

Add to all that the three Queens' heads - the one that falls, the one that stays and the one that cannot be removed - and the book actually works. It might not be the best mystery ever written but it is a good period mystery -- with more emphasis on the times and the theater than on the mystery side. ( )
  AnnieMod | May 10, 2011 |
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Epigraph
'Her head should have been cut off years ago'

Queen Elizabeth I
Dedication
TO THE ONLIE BEGETTER OF

THESE INSVING CHRONICLES

Mr. C.M. ALL HAPPINESSE

WISHETH

THE WELL-WISHING

ADVENTVRER IN

SETTING

FORTH
First words
Death stalked her patiently throughout the whole of her imprisonment.

Prologue
The queen's head swung gently to and fro in the light breeze.

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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"First published in Great Britain by Bantam Press, a division of Transworld Publishers Ltd." T.p. verso
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1587-1588
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0449217914, Mass Market Paperback)

1587, and Mary, Queen of Scots, dies by the executioner's axe, her head, shorn of its auburn wig, rolling across the platform. Will her death end the ceaseless plotting against Mary's red-haired cousin, Elizabeth?
1588, the year of the Spanish Armada, is a time of more terror and triumph, not just for queen and court but for the whole of England. The turmoil is reflected in its theatres and under the galleries of inns like London's The Queen's Head where Lord Westfield's Men perform. The scene there on grows even more tumultuous when one of the actors is murdered by a mysterious stranger during a brawl.
Nicholas Bracewell, the company's bookholder, a role far wider than mere producer, faces two immediate repercussions. The first is to secure a replacement acceptable to its temperamental star -- and chief shareholder -- Lawrence Firethorn. The second is to keep his promise to the dying Will Fowler and catch his killer.
Soon further robberies, accidents, and misfortunes strike Lord Westfield's Men even as their stage successes swell. Bracewell begins to suspect a conspiracy, not a single murderous act, but where lies the proof? Then the players are rewarded with the ultimate accolade -- an appearance at court -- and the canny bookholder senses the end to the drama is at hand....
First published to great acclaim in 1988, The Queen's Head anticipated the lure of bawdy, boisterous, yet elegant epics like Shakespeare in Love. Actor and playwrite Marston has followed with, to date, ten more lusty, historically grounded, theatrically sound Bracewell mysteries that explore the face of England and reveal his deep love for its rich literary and dramatic heritage. The Roaring Boy wasnominated for a 1996 Edgar Award for Best Novel.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:19 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Set in 1588 against the background of the Spanish Armada, 'The Queen's Head' is the first in a thrilling series featuring Nicholas Bracewell and the colourful world of the Elizabethan theatre.

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