Reviews: Publish and Perish

Publish and Perish by Anna Castle“In this fourth Francis Bacon mystery, author Anna Castle strikes a perfect balance among her lead characters, each pursuing his or her own life goals and his or her unique approach to solving the same mystery, the murder of a several writers hired to counter the pamphlets of a popular and witty critic of the Church of England sometimes. (Pamphlets were the popular media of the day.)

“The reader is onto a secret known to Lady Alice Trumpington but not to Bacon or his clerk and her close friend, Tom Clarady. I won’t say what it is, even though it’s revealed to the reader fairly soon. Even at that point in the book, it’s such a wonderful revelation, I won’t spoil it. The secret adds a layer of fun to the men’s attempts to solve this aspect of the puzzle. It was a hard mystery to solve overall, with believable red herrings, and I never did figure it out, but when the solution was revealed, it made sense. I could see the clues and motives.

“The themes of women’s roles and restrictions, the complexities of the law, and the politics of church and state may sound dense and heavy, but they’re not—not in Castle’s hands. The story is lively and colorful, with diverse settings ranging from the offices of the most powerful people in Elizabethan England to the rough neighborhoods and taverns where writers could be found. Sometimes collaborating, sometimes keeping things from each other, the three leads take the reader on a lively journey peopled with historical personages of the day. 

“Castle handles backstory well, giving just enough to keep the story flowing with clarity, so if you should decide to start here and go backward, the other stories wouldn’t be spoiled. However, I recommend beginning the series at the beginning and getting to know the characters.”

– Amber Foxx at Amber’s Thoughts (Best Bacon Yet! (Francis, that is), May 31, 2018)

***

Honorable Mention, Mysteries, Library Journal Indie Ebook Award Winners 2017

“In 16th-century England, a mischievous Martin Marprelate wreaks havoc on London’s most proficient writers. His fiery pamphlets in support of a stronger Protestant Reformation in the Church of England send Puritan society into an infernal rage—including the archbishop, who would love to see him hang. Between the enraged pamphleteers with whom he is at constant war and the aggravated religious figureheads, Marprelate faces certain peril. There’s just one problem: nobody knows who he actually is or where he’s been printing his controversial works. When two writers are murdered after being mistaken for Thomas Nashe, a man who appears dangerously close to nabbing Marprelate, Francis Bacon steps in to find the killer—and hopefully Marprelate. VERDICT In this aptly titled fourth book in the “Francis Bacon” series, Castle combines her impressive knowledge of English religion and politics during the period with masterly creativity. The result is a lively, clever story that will leave mystery fans delighted.”

— Emilie Hancock, Mount Pleasant Regional Lib., SC (full review)

***

“It is an art to bring the past to life, an art at which Ms Castle excels. Through a myriad of small details, she firmly anchors this 16th-century murder mystery featuring Francis Bacon in the heady times of the aging Elizabeth I: a time of political and religious unrest, capably managed by the aging but as yet very powerful Lord Burghley.

“At the heart of the story lies religious dissent. A non-conformist pamphleteer going by the name of Martin Marprelate has pointed a finger at the Anglican Church, accusing it of being anything but a reformed church. The archbishop fights back, hiring his own pamphleteers to refute the accusations. A war of words turns into something far more sinister when two of these unfortunate writers end up dead. Francis Bacon and his engaging clerk, Tom Clarady, are soon involved in a dangerous game to catch the murderer.

“Other than a deliciously convoluted plot and the richly described historical setting, Ms Castle gives us a wonderful cast of characters, all the way from the charming Tom and his best friend (and secret love) Trumpet, a.k.a. Lady Alice, to real historical figures such as Francis Bacon’s intimidating aunt, Lady Russell and, of course, Bacon’s uncle and cousin, Lord Burghley and Robert Cecil respectively. Flowing prose, precise and tight dialogue, and characters that grow on you: what more can a reader ask for? All in all, Publish and Perish is a delightful and very satisfying read.”

— Anna Belfrage, Historical Novel Society Magazine, Issue 83 (February, 2018)

***

“Since some years back, I am something of a fan of Ms Castle’s books, be they set in the 19th century and featuring a certain Mr Moriarty or in the 16th century and featuring Sir Francis Bacon. No matter what period Ms Castle uses for her setting, she excels at bringing the past to life. In Publish and Perish we are in Elizabethan London and the brilliant if not so successful Sir Francis Bacon has a murder mystery to solve—before things get really out of hand.  England under the ageing Elizabeth I is beset by political and religious unrest and the equally ageing Lord Burghley is determined to ensure such unrest is contained.

“At the heart of the story lies religious dissent. A non-conformist pamphleteer going by the name of Martin Marprelate has pointed a finger at the Anglican Church, accusing it of being anything but a reformed church. (As a little aside, Martin Marprelate did exist and the controversy sparked by his pamphlets is a matter of historical record.) The archbishop of Canterbury is very upset by Marprelate’s writings and fights back, hiring his own pamphleteers to refute the accusations. A war of words turns into something far more sinister when two of these unfortunate writers end up dead. Francis Bacon and his engaging clerk, Tom Clarady, are soon involved in a dangerous game to catch the murderer.

“Ms Castle takes us for quite the ride. We climb through windows, visit some of the seedier locales in London, partake of food and drink in various taverns, now and then popping by to pay Lord Burghley a short if informative visit. As to who the murderer is and why, Ms Castle leaves the reader guessing for quite a long time—always a good quality in a mystery novel.

“Other than a deliciously convoluted plot and the beautifully described historical setting, Ms Castle also gives us a wonderful cast of characters, all the way from the charming Tom and his best friend (and secret love) Trumpet, a.k.a. Lady Alice, to real historical figures such as Francis Bacon’s intimidating aunt, Lady Russell and, of course, Bacon’s uncle and cousin, Lord Burghley and Robert Cecil respectively. A flowing prose, a precise and tight dialogue and characters that grow on you: what more can a reader ask for? All in all, Publish and Perish was a delightful and very satisfying read.”

– Discovering Diamonds, Anna Belfrage, May 7, 2018

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