Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas Mystery with John Shakespeare

The Man in the Snow, A John Shakespeare Novella by Rory Clements is an e-book for today.  
Actually, it's merely set during Christmas.  It begins with John writing to his parents that he is unable to get home for the holiday because he is busy with work as Chief Intelligencer for Sir Robert Cecil.  He is Will Shakespeare's older brother.  Stratford-upon-Avon is 100 miles away.

An old friend, Joshua Peace, arrives at John's comfortable home and they sit down with brandy to warm him.  He has come because as Searcher of the Dead, he has the corpse of a black man who was shot in the back. The justice and the sheriff won't do anything about it, so he has come to ask John to find out who killed him and bring the murderer to justice.

Travel is difficult because of heavy snow.  When the two men near London, they see gangs of men shoveling snow from the roads.  All Peace knows is that the body was found just outside the city frozen solid.  Can't determine time of death but assumes it was within the past three weeks.  To his surprise, John recognizes the man.  He is Giovanni Jesu from Venice who works for the Earl of Oxford.  He remembered him from years ago because Jesu was such a perfection of human form.  His skin was a glowing shade of light brown.

Solving the mystery involves a stay in the household of the Earl who is a drunkard, and his wife, a lovely and admirable lady.  He finds that Jesu has fathered a child with one of the maidservants in the house.  There are many suspects and no one talking due to fear or loyalty. John's servant, Boltfoot Cooper (who has a clubfoot) returns to London to further the investigation there.

The characters in this story set in the late 1500s are a motley lot.  Figuring out who to trust is half the case, and then ferreting out motives is even more difficult.  It has the air of genuine research behind the story.  I learned quite a bit about the life in those days.  It all held my interest, and I loved John Shakespeare.

Highly recommended quick read
Source:  publisher - Witness/Impulse Imprint, HarperCollins

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