I picked up this book quite by chance when I found it at a sale simply because I thought it would present an interesting new angle on murder mysteries. Edited by Mike Ashley this book is a compilation of about 24 stories, some written as far back as the 1800s.
Now, I’m not particularly well-versed with the rather expansive and pretty complicated British history (their contribution to Indian history was hard enough to learn in school) so Ashley’s foreword was well appreciated. Nonetheless, there were a few names even I recognised, most prominently Sir Walter Ralegh, Pocahontas (!), and of course, the King’s Players as Shakespeare and his company were known then.
The stories are mired in the Court politics of the Jacobean era with murder, conspiracy, betrayal and counter-betrayal, and the stench of guilt lurking around every corner. Somehow reading the book takes you into the world of shadows and my overwhelming impression of Jacobean England was a joyless place where the sun never shone. Some 500 pages of that can be quite oppressive, I swear! However, given that, one couldn’t quite complain about the atmosphere of this book! It makes you almost expect people to get murdered with poisoned daggers and tossed in shadowy alleys!
I also quite enjoyed the reimagined characters of some of history’s famous names. In fact, Shakespeare’s representation as a high-strung and not-particularly intelligent artist was quite funny (even if the fan in me balked at the suggestion).
Over all, this book is definitely worth a read if you like your history and whodunnits and don’t mind if they come together in a cocktail spiced with much imagination! I know there are some stories in there I’ll frequently revisit. This one’s a 5 for me.