Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review: Murder by Misrule by Anna Castle

Murder by Misrule
by Anna Castle
Release Date: June 8th, 2014
2014 by Anna Castle
Ebook Edition; 350 Pages
ISBN: 978-0991602506
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

Francis Bacon is charged with investigating the murder of a fellow barrister at Gray's Inn. He recruits his unwanted protégé Thomas Clarady to do the tiresome legwork. The son of a privateer, Clarady will do anything to climb the Elizabethan social ladder. Bacon's powerful uncle Lord Burghley suspects Catholic conspirators of the crime, but other motives quickly emerge. Rival barristers contend for the murdered man's legal honors and wealthy clients. Highly-placed courtiers are implicated as the investigation reaches from Whitehall to the London streets. Bacon does the thinking; Clarady does the fencing. Everyone has something up his pinked and padded sleeve. Even the brilliant Francis Bacon is at a loss — and in danger — until he sees through the disguises of the season of Misrule.

My Thoughts
Murder by Misrule looks to be the first book in a new series featuring Francis Bacon, an influential philosopher, statesman, and author.  I have long been a fan of Bacon, who is known for his empirical method and his planned procedures for investigations.  I was drawn to this book as I was curious to see what an author would do with a character such as Bacon.

To begin with, I found the descriptions of this time period to be quite vivid and interesting.  I was drawn into the story immediately and felt a keen sympathy for Bacon right from the beginning.  The author definitely has a soft spot for this character and you can tell in her writing, something which makes the reader feel sympathy and empathy for him as well.  He can be arrogant though, and he definitely possesses a bit of that spoiled attitude we tend to see in the nobility, that whininess that comes when you are not immediately served or have to wait for something.  I found it intriguing as I liked how Ms. Castle tended to portray the lives of the nobility and I found her descriptions at court quite perceptive.  

The other characters were interesting as well; I took a particular liking to Trumpet and I found out why towards the end.  I am hoping Tom Clarady will grow into his character in the next book as he was rather annoying; there were times when I wished that Ms. Castle had actually written the book without him in it.  And the constant bickering between spoiled Stephen and Tom began to get on my nerves, so enough already.  I'm sure Stephen has his reasons for suddenly behaving the way that he did, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why in this novel, and it definitely wasn't explained.  A rather little annoying side-story that either could have been eliminated or develops so we know what is going on.  I understand the element of the prickly dynamic that exists between two people who are from different social classes, and the conflicts that may erupt between them as they try to figure out their roles within those social classes, but it just seemed like it didn't quite fit into the story very well.  And having Francis watching it all with those knowing eyes kind of convoluted everything.  Don't get me wrong, some of it was fun, but some of it was eye-rolling too.  Bacon wasn't exactly at the top of the accepted list during this time either, having been banned from court for his philosophical views, and investigating crimes wasn't exactly the way back to the Queen's heart, but who was he to refuse a direct order?  Francis' contemplations about his problems, and whether anyone else was paying attention to him, was probably at the heart of the book for me.

Having stumbled across a dead body on Queen's Day came as a complete shock to Bacon, and he was tasked with finding the killer of the lawyer by none other than his uncle Lord Burghley.  He recruits the boys to help him with tasks that he has difficulty performing and the boys' antics add a liveliness to the storyline.  I've already mentioned that I wasn't overly crazy over Tom, and his constant romantic outpourings over a woman he met once, and who was a witness to the murder, were rather annoying.  I'm not even sure that Clara had more sense than Tom, but she did tend to resist him for a while longer, even being dragged into the whole sordid mess herself.  I don't think the mystery was that challenging, and I did figure it out, although I did change my mind once or twice before coming to the conclusion I did.  I did appreciate Bacon's inductive method of investigation though, especially as it's what he's historically known for; it lends a rather nice touch.

Murder by Misrule was an interesting foray into the life of Francis Bacon, one which I enjoyed quite a bit.  I liked the various characters and thought they were quite fun, each adding their own touch to the story.  I did have problems accepting Tom, but I'm hoping his character will develop and mature in upcoming books as he could be rather annoying.  I liked the dynamics at Gray's Inn as well as the interactions between the characters, including the political dynamics, and liked learning more about the court of law during this time period.  The jabs and humour were fun and made the various characters come alive.  I am looking forward to reading the next book in this series, Death by Disputation, when it is released later this year.