EDWARD MARSTON – The Vagabond Clown. St. Martin’s, hardcover, August 2003.

EDWARD MARSTON The Vagabond Clown

   Marston is a wonderfully prolific writer. Besides two separate series written as by Keith Miles, which as it happens is his real name, he has three additional series under this particular pseudonym, all historical mysteries: (1) with Christopher Redmayne, an architect, and Jonathan Bale, a constable in 1600s London, England; (2) the Domesday series, with Ralph Delchard, soldier and Gervase Bret, lawyer in medieval England; and (3), of which this is the latest, a series featuring Nicholas Bracewell, book holder for Westfield’s Men, an accomplished acting company in Elizabethan times.

   A book holder includes the jobs of both stage manager and road manager, and Nicholas has his work cut out for him in The Vagabond Clown, what with one clown incapacitated with a broken leg, and the second, recruited from a debtor’s cell, subject to serious bouts of wine, women and japery.

   Murder and other calamities also follow the trail of the travelers as they make their way from London to Dover, making adjustments to their plays as they go. The jealousies and acrimony between the two clowns make for fine amusement, and it is hard to imagine how the life of troupers like these on the road could be better described.

   The solution to the mystery is more than a little weak, alas, with motivations hidden until the very end, far too late to be of any help to the reader at home, though the culprits themselves are painfully obvious. An uneven entry in the series, therefore, but one that’s definitely worth reading.

PostScript: For the sake of completeness, the detective novels written under the Keith Miles byline are (1) the Alan Saxon mysteries, in which the current day golfer goes from country to country solving crimes and (2) a rather new series following the adventures of Merlin Richards, a young Welsh architect and a Frank Lloyd Wright protégé, taking place in Phoenix and Chicago in the 1920s and 30s.

   This is embarrassing. Marston/Miles can write faster than I can read.

— October 2003

[UPDATE] 10-03-12. Here it is, nine years later. The Vagabond Clown was the 13th in the Nicholas Bracewell series; there are now 16. Other current totals:

Eleven books in the Domesday series.
Six books in the Christopher Redmayne series.
Ten books in the Inspector Robert Colbeck series (begin in 2004).
Five books in the Captain Rawson series (begun in 2008).
Two books in the Inspector Harvey Marmion and Sergeant Joe Keedy series (begun in 2011).

       As by Keith Miles:

Six books in the Alan Saxon series.
Two books in the Merlin Richards series.

       As by Martin Inigo (not mentioned above):

Two books in the Dan Hawker series

   In the past nine years, if my count is correct, Marston/Miles has written 23 books.