Francis Bacon has been banished from Queen Elizabeth’s court. To restore himself to favor, he agrees to help his uncle identify the murderer wreaking havoc on the barristers at Gray’s Inn. But even with the help of his riotous young law students, Tom, Stephen, Trumpet, and Ben, this mystery might prove more than a match for the brilliant Mr. Bacon.
Anna Castle is adept at creating the atmosphere of Elizabethan society. Both historical characters and fictional characters come alive in the bedrooms and common rooms of Gray’s Inn, one of the four Inns of Court to which barristers and those studying Law must belong. I particularly enjoyed Thomas Clarady, the son of a privateer who gained access to Bacon as his tutor when his father shrewdly offered to pay Bacon’s debts. Tom spends his time drinking wine, brawling in the streets, and crafting verses to sing beneath his beloved’s window–but when inductive logic is required, his wits are quicker than many might suppose. The “Misrule” in the title refers to the season of joyful pranks just prior to Christmas where the Lord of Misrule prepares festivities for the holiday.
I began this book in a friend’s car, listening to about a quarter of the audio version while we were carpooling home from a weekend retreat. After that, I had to resort to reading the rest on Kindle on my own. The prose has a literary luster to it, and Anna Castle’s turns of phrase and figures of speech frequently make one laugh aloud, or at least smirk quietly into one’s imaginary ruff. For exmple, Tom thinks of Law French as: “a deranged, unreadable mishmash of Old French and Latin with the odd lump of English bobbing up like uncooked fat in a sour stew.”
One drawback of this book is that the mystery itself left something to be desired. Also, a few of the attitudes of the characters toward the end of the book seemed to relect modern sensibilities more than the sensibilities of the time. But despite this, the atmosphere, characterization, and prose was a feast for the eyes and the ears. This is my first Francis Bacon mystery, but I have also enjoyed Anna Castle’s Professor and Mrs. Moriarty series:
- REVIEW of Moriarty Meets His Match
- REVIEW of Moriarty Takes His Medicine
- REVIEW of Moriarty Brings Down the House