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The Counterfeit Crank by Edward Marston

The Counterfeit Crank

by Edward Marston

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312319495, Hardcover)

Things actually seem to be looking up for that chronically tormented Elizabethan theater company known as Westfield's Men. As the curtain rises on Edward Marston's exuberant The Counterfeit Crank, the cast has welcomed into their midst an oddly secretive but nonetheless talented new playwright, who brings with him a rousing historical drama, Caesar's Fall. Meanwhile, Alexander Marwood, the gloomy, henpecked landlord of the Queen's Head, that London inn where Westfield's Men are begrudgingly permitted to perform, has gone to visit his ailing brother (whom he hopes will remember him in his will), leaving the hostelry in the care of a more appreciative and exuberant manager. "Fortune has smiled on us at last," exults Westfield's veteran dramatist, Edmund Hoode.

Ah, but those words have hardly been uttered before a plague of gambling debts spreads among the actors--the result of their engagement with beguiling card sharp Philomen Lavery--and Hoode's health declines precipitously, dashing any chance of his completing a promised lithesome comedy. Adding insult to injury, the troupe's costumes are pilfered and its ticket proceeds pinched. Though Nicholas Bracewell, Westfield's book holder and necessarily practiced troubleshooter, hopes to rout all these woes, he's over-stretched, having also volunteered to aid a fetching, naïve young con artist who has survived abduction by the lecherous operators of a workhouse for the poor, but whose Welsh boyfriend has now gone missing. Deceived by people he saw as friends, and pursued by some of the very malefactors he aims to vanquish, Bracewell must marshal his considerable skills--both as a detective and a thespian--to save his livelihood, not to mention his own life.

British fictionist Marston has created other historical series in recent years, including those about a pair of 11th-century "Domesday" researchers (introduced in The Wolves of Savernake) and about 1850s London Inspector Robert Colbeck (who debuted in The Railway Detective). Yet he owes his popularity most to the Bracewell books, of which The Counterfeit Crank is the 14th (after 2003's The Vagabond Clown). While this novel offers a couple plot twists that are obvious from the outset, and more than one secondary character lacks the nuances essential to believability, there's no sign that Marston's regular cadre of 16th-century entertainers--each more egotistical or eccentric than the last--has been wrung dry of the possibilities for humor and hardship. --J. Kingston Pierce

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:05 -0400)

"Nicholas Bracewell, the book holder and stage manager for the popular London theater troupe Westfield's Men, has a few problems on his hands. Most unfortunately, Edmund Hoode, the troupe's talented playwright, has fallen ill and is unable to complete his next opus. As if that weren't enough, the sudden absence of their hated landlord seems to have coincided with a few unusual events at the inn the troupe calls home. A gambler has moved in upstairs and has begun to take money off many of the actors, something the regular landlord would never have allowed." "Then Westfield's Men are faced with the ultimate insult when the actor's costumes are purloined from a locked storage cabinet and they are forced to perform with makeshift clothing. Protecting the troupe from whatever sinister curse has befallen them is almost too much for Nick to bear, but, as usual, he will stop at nothing before he gets everything under control. After all, it's Nick's job to ensure the show will go on, in spite of toil, trouble, and perhaps even murder."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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