Review: Death by Disputation, by Anna Castle

cover-death-by-disputation

This second book in the Francis Bacon mystery series is a strong as the first. At times bawdy and rowdy, at times thought-provoking, it centers around outgoing and adventurous Thomas Clarady, student and first-time spy, but the scholarly Bacon plays a key role as Tom’s spymaster. The contrast in their characters and lifestyles gives depth and texture to the story. Castle weaves religious-political intrigue, murder mystery, and Tom’s colorful friendships and love life into a tightly-paced plot. The murder mystery and the spy story mix, and though the latter often takes the upper hand, the author keeps track of all the threads. Christopher Marlowe, who is portrayed with quite a flair, plays a role in both plot lines.

The writing is never pedantic, yet each scene is crafted with well-chosen historical details that gives the reader a full sense of the times—the smells, the sounds, the clothes and furnishings, and the beliefs and customs of Elizabethan England. Some historical novelists feel the need to dump all of their research into a book, smothering the story. Castle knows better. She has such a grasp of the times she can use settings, props and costumes as needed, to reveal and enhance characters and events, but never clutter the story. And speaking of costumes, there is a Shakespearian feel to various layers of disguises employed by some of the characters.

One particular scene I found fascinating and revealing was the Rogation Day event. It illustrates the contrast between the Anglicans and the Puritans and the tensions between them. While the issue of religious fanaticism in politics is serious, and the insights Tom gains into how it feels to be a member of such a zealous community are also serious, there are comic touches such as the conflict between two young ladies of opposing views, and Tom’s delightful response to it. I’m sure my neighbors heard me laugh. The balance between comedy and food for thought is just right—and suited to a story told primarily in Tom’s point of view.

The final chapter, amusingly, shows Tom from Bacon’s point of view, so different from how Tom experiences himself. At first the ending seemed a bit dry as the conclusion of such a vivid and juicy book, but then it struck me a sort of “after the ecstasy, the laundry” realism, as Francis Bacon gets on with getting on in the world.

Note: I recommend reading the series in order, starting with Murder by Misrule.

Sales links to buy from all e-book retailers can be found on

http://www.annacastle.com/francis-bacon-series/death-by-disputation

 

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Win Four Books: A gift to thank you for reading my blog

If you’re reading this blog, you probably share my enthusiasm for good quality indie fiction, especially mysteries and thrillers. (I also list other genres on this site, though those are the ones I review.) I hope I’ve introduced you to some books you’ve enjoyed, and that you tried the e-book workouts to help you stay in shape while you finish all those bargain downloads. To thank you for following, I can’t give you all a gift, but I’m having a drawing. Two of my blog readers will win the current four books in the Mae Martin Series in paperback. Here’s how:

Send an e-mail to ambfoxx@earthlink.net with the heading Blog Follower. Let me know which blog or blogs you follow (I have four*), and I’ll enter you in the give-away. I will reply confirming your entry.

You can ask to subscribe to my new release mailing list at the same time if you want, but I will not automatically subscribe you. Fear no spam. It’s not coming.

On Monday Sept. 28th at 12:00 noon I’ll close the entries and put all the names in a virtual hat and have a colleague pull two out. I will contact the winners and ask for their mailing addresses, and contact the other entrants with only the first name and last initial and general location of the winners, i.e. “Winners are Jane X in Saskatchewan and John Y in Florida.”

If you’re not yet familiar with my fiction, you can read the book descriptions on https://amberfoxxmysteries.wordpress.com and also try a free sample:

https://amberfoxxmysteries.wordpress.com/free-downloads-retail-links

https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com/short-story-singles-and-collections

This short story is a prequel to the series and is free on all major e-book retail sites. (If you look for it on the everywhereindies link you can browse through some great short fiction by other authors while you’re there.)

*The four blogs are:

https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com a blog dedicated to supporting and reviewing the work of indie authors who publish everywhere, not just Amazon. (It started as my Nook book shopping list and grew.)

https://amberfoxxmysteries.wordpress.com a blog about the mysteries of life and reviews of mysteries set in New Mexico. You’ll find descriptions of all the books there, and also on https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com/books-by-genre-mystery

http://ladiesofmystery.com a group blog with seven other women who write mysteries, dedicated to the topic of writing, from craft to inspiration, with freedom to digress as we see fit.

http://amberf.booklikes.com a book review blog covering everything I read, from yoga philosophy to cozy mysteries to literary fiction to thrillers and more.

Page-turning Comedy: Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun by Lois Winston

WinstonGlue_Gun_book_pageCrafts editor Anastasia Pollack is at her funniest and most determined when her luck is at its worst, and she’s just been run over by the bad luck bus of life. It may be hard to imagine how hilarious a book can be when the protagonist’s husband dies and leaves her broke and in debt and with a Communist mother-in-law who moves in with her—but it just gets funnier. And though I cringed at the image I found the weird creativity of the murder itself it comical.

Early on, I figured out whodunit but this was still a nonstop page-turner. I enjoyed reading to see if I was right. Anastasia is an irresistible character. While some of the comedy—her mother’s many marriages, her parrot that quotes Shakespeare at the perfect moment—is larger than life, the protagonist feels real, and so do her teenaged sons and her relationship with them. Winston strikes exactly the right balance between believable and over-the-top. The pacing of the plot kept me asking how Anastasia was going to get out of each crisis and when and how the killer would get caught. The narrative style is so engaging, I think I could read a book without a plot by Winston and still be entertained.

For those who enjoy the truly cozy aspect of a cozy mystery, there are craft projects at the back of the book—directions how to do the projects Anastasia works on in the course of the story. There’s also a tempting sneak peek at the next book in the series, which promises to be equally amusing and well crafted.

You can find Lois Winston’s books on the mystery page, the short story page, and under her pseudonym Emma Carlyle on the romantic suspense page.

https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com/books-by-genre-mystery/

https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com/books-by-genre-romantic-suspense/

https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com/short-story-singles-and-collections/