"To be or not to be" could very well be the motto of Westfield's Men in this tenth installment of Edward Marston's Nicholas Bracewell mysteries!
It is yet another harrowing and trying experience for these Elizabethan actors, who faced--and overcame--the previous nine threats to their existence as one of the leading acting companies in London!
And Marston has convincingly--as always--set the stage (as it were!) for a clever and intriguing mystery in "The Wanton Angel."
Queen Elizabeth's Privy Council has decided that the "wicked and lascivious ways of the theatre and its crowd" must be curtailed. Thus, it has proclaimed that henceforth, only two theatre companies will exist in London. On top of that, all acting companies performing in courtyards will be curtailed as well. Hence, the Westfield Men face what appears to be the "final curtain" of their careers. Their patron, Lord Westfield, has his own misgivings and is ready to release his sponsorhip. What to do!
Behind the guidance of Bracewell, the company decides to build its own theatre and to compete intensely for the right to perform. Murder and mayhem follow as the plot sickens! One of the actors is found murdered under the pilings of their new theatre; Nicholas is badly beaten; members of the company are being lured away by the rival companies, one by one. Alas, a secret benefactor appears, ready to save the company and to provide a much needed loan in order to continue operating and to build the new theatre, named The Angel. And along the way, there are bits and pieces of romance! We continue to be enthralled by the thespian antics of the leading actor, Lawrence Firethorn, and the other members of the company: Edmund Hoode, Barnaby Gill, Owen Elias, and the actors' nemeses: Sybill and Alexander Marwood (owners of the Queen's Head, where the company performs).
Marston is able to sustain the mystery, the interest, the intrigue of this well- researched novel of Elizabethan England and theatre and it is to his credit that the storyline carries well. Needless to say, in keeping with the series, there is a happy ending--which veteran readers know is bound to happen--but the trip along the way is good reading. The author is well-versed in his historical applications. Indeed, it seems that "all the world really is a stage"!