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An Honorable Murder: A Shakespearean Murder-Mystery Featuring Nick Revill    by Philip Gooden order for
Honorable Murder
by Philip Gooden
Order:  USA  Can
Carroll & Graf, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Nick Revill, player and sometime investigator, narrates An Honorable Murder, set in the early 17th century. James I of Scotland is King and Anne of Denmark is Queen, while Sir Walter Raleigh is lodged in the Tower of London. The Spaniards arrive in England to sign a peace treaty. They travel the Thames with pomp and circumstance, and are housed at Somerset House. There are factions at play that might sabotage the treaty signing.

Revill's regular company of players was promoted to be King's Men by James I. Nick is invited by Shakespeare's rival, Ben Jonson to participate in his creation, 'Masque of Peace', to be performed in celebration of the treaty. The difference between a masque and a play is explained - masques are shorter, with minimal script, emphasizing costumes, music, and drama portrayed by professionals and notables - including, in this case, Queen Anne, Dona Luisa de Mendoza, and a courtier, Sir Philip Blake. A forceful (and well-paid) request from a stranger, John Ratchett, plunges Nick into spying on the actors, and subsequently investigating not just Blake's supposed accidental demise, but additional suspicious deaths as well. Ratchett doesn't reveal the faction he represents, or its goal.

Nick's long list of suspects includes Lady Blake, her companion, the playwright, and a courtier, all of whom participate in Johnson's masque. Its cast of characters play to the audience with names like Peace, Suspicion, Fear, Ocean - Nick was assigned Ignorance. Truth is Sir Philip Blake, whose part requires a descent from the heavens at the drama's climax. However, at the last rehearsal, Blake falls forward out of his chair, operated by pulleys and ropes which appear to have been severed. Aside from Revill's appearance in Jonson's masque and his spying, we see him visiting a brothel, and renting a room from Mrs. Ursula Buckle (who sees her husband's ghost). William Shakespeare appears now and then in the story line, which also has references to Othello and Hamlet.

Philip Gooden offers mystery readers a mediocre tale, with a fair amount of repetition. He subtly slips in a line or two from previous stories starring Revill, and through him offers wit and word play. The ending is satisfactory, not lacking surprises. An Honorable Murder will draw in Gooden and Revill fans, as well as readers who enjoy an Elizabethan context for their mysteries.

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