While the Restoration London of 1676 is full of paranoia about French, Dutch and Catholic spies infiltrating Whitehall, the heroine of Molly Brown's "Invitation to a Funeral" seems far away from all that.
When first we meet Aphra Behn, she is waking with her head aching and mouth dry from a night's revelry. The playwright is broke after her last play flopped, and her new play must run at least three days for her to make any money on it. To make matters worse, the Earl of Rochester managed to cast his mistress in the lead, despite her obvious lack of talent, as part of a bet that Aphra can turn her into London's best actress.
When a man who befriended her many years ago is found dead, she arranges for his funeral to repay an old debt. But her innocent act has drawn the attention of some mysterious figures, including the head of the king's secret service.
"Invitation to a Funeral" is full of Restoration figures, noble and common: King Charles II, his competing mistresses such as the actress Nell Gwyn and the Duchess of Portsmouth (nicknamed "Squintabella" by Nell), and the carousing Earl of Rochester. Those who know the era will recognize some of the incidents Brown uses for her own devices.
Aphra Behn stands out among the general run of amateur detectives for her refusal to act like one. She is not Jessica Fletcher teleported to the 17th century, just a single working girl trying to keep body and soul together while working in a profession which most people of the time considered one step removed from prostitution. What with shepherding her play to the stage, dealing with Rochester's mistress, running deeper into debt and avoiding her debtors (as well as an ex-lover attempting to win her back), she doesn't have time to play detective. How she manages to get into serious trouble anyway makes "Invitation to a Funeral" a pleasurable jaunt back to another historical era.