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by Philip Gooden

Pub Date: April 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-7867-1528-6

Actor Nick Revill (Mask of Night, 2004, etc.), member of the King’s Men, the leading acting company in 1604 London, lands a not-very-challenging role in Ben Jonson’s Masque of Peace: the part of Ignorance.

A masque is a spectacular production, relying mostly on stage engineering and costumes for its entertainment value. Nick has few lines to learn and can concentrate on ogling the beautiful Spanish lady playing the part of La Paz, the Spanish Peace. She belongs to the Spanish delegation visiting London to sign a historic treaty between those long-time enemies Spain and England. The production, which will take place at Somerset House, where the Spanish delegation is temporarily lodged, celebrates the rapprochement, with Queen Anne herself playing the English Peace. Not every English citizen is celebrating, however. A man named John Ratchet, with obscure political connections and lots of gold, approaches Nick and pays him for information about goings-on at Somerset House, especially about the Spanish. Nick’s investigations don’t get very far until Sir Philip Blake, a prominent Englishman once opposed to the Spanish treaty, falls to his death from a malfunctioning deus ex machina. Someone has cut the ropes—someone out of all the prominent English and Spanish players who toured the stage machinery before the fatal performance.

An enjoyably twisty ending, but Nick’s love life verges on the lugubrious.