An Elizabethan mystery, this story is narrated by George Bullen in London, 1598. Mr. Bullen is a scribe; he writes letters and transcribes legal and financial documentation for those who cannot read or write. A stranger visits to recount an incident that has landed him in serious trouble—treason, in fact—with the crown. Gareth Simmons is running for his life and needs the money his story will bring, possibly to sell to a playwright like Shakespeare or Marlowe, to leave the country.
The story-within-a-story involves Queen Elizabeth and her court, which famously (or infamously) travelled the country on “progresses,” both to save her own money and to keep away from the sicknesses in London. As Simmons relates the tale each day and George Bullen records it, the scribe begins to understand the dangers. When people around him start to die, he must decide whether to let the fugitive finish the tale or turn him in to the crown.
During the days that Simmons is relating the story to Bullen, the story dragged quite a bit. It was frustrating to wait between sessions, especially when the story wasn’t very interesting, at least yet. The author included some—but not too much—historical background on the time period, including the political scene and the religious context, which would help those not familiar with the time.
Once Bullen starts to investigate the mystery himself, I felt the plot meandered from one idea to the next. It was difficult to keep up with where it was going and why Bullen was putting himself and his family in such danger. It felt as if the author had some famous locations and/or events in mind and wanted to be sure he included them all in the book.
In the Kindle version, at least, there were quite a few errors of punctuation and usage. Whether these came from the original or were from the conversion process, it’s hard to say. As an editor, it’s difficult to overlook the lack of quotation marks, the duplicate words, and the name changes from one section to another, for instance. The finished product deserves better proofreading.
This is not a long book and the mystery is intriguing, but the reader must be patient and not expect a lot of action.
Some violence, no sex, no cursing