Saturday, 26 October 2019

The Amorous Nightingale by Edward Marston

The Amorous Nightingale (Christopher Redmayne Book 2) by Edward Marston
First published in the UK by Headline in July 2000.

One of my 2019 Mount TBR Challenge reads and my 2000s read for my 2019-20 Decade Challenge

How I got this book:
Swapped for at a campsite book exchange

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

London 1667. Acclaimed beauty and singer Harriet Gow is the star performer at the famous Theatre Royal on Drury Lane, as well as the favourite mistress of King Charles II. After seeing her perform, Christopher Redmayne is likewise captivated so he is intrigued when the King urgently summons him – it seems Harriet has been kidnapped. Redmayne, with the help of his friend Jonathan Bale is engaged to resolve this delicate affair and they quickly begin delving into Harriet’s background.

The façade of elegance soon begins to crumble in the face of their investigations, and just as Redmayne and Bale start to question whether Harriet is really the victim or the guilty party, a brutal murder provides the answer...

The Amorous Nightingale is the second in Edward Marston's series of six Reformation Era crime mysteries, each of which feature the unlikely detective pairing of architect Christopher Redmayne with constable Jonathan Bale. I haven't yet read the first book in the series, but the few brief nods to its storyline are adequately explained here so I didn't feel as though I was missing information about the characters or their previous lives. The paperback edition I read had fairly large font and wide page margins so, despite this being a 372 page book, it was a quick read which I happily devoured over the course of an afternoon. The kidnapping mystery was convoluted enough to maintain my interest, but without being too taxing.

Where Marston excels, I felt, was in his portrayals of 1660s London. The city is far smaller than its present-day incarnation, even more so as the Great Fire destroyed thousands of homes only a year or so before our story takes place. Through the investigations and exploits of Redmayne, Bale and their friends we get to see varied streets, homes and characters from the no-longer-quite-as-divine King Charles II himself to the thugs and prostitutes who scrape a living on the docksides. I loved Marston's descriptions of the rich males outrageously fashionable outfits and also appreciated Jonathan Bale's crushed Puritan hopes - Cromwell's Commonwealth having existed still well within living memory.

The Amorous Nightingale is more of an entertaining crime mystery than a serious historical novel. I would have liked more depth to the characterisation because I felt we often had too large a cast at the expense of their individual believability. That said, I did enjoy this story and would happily seek out the further (and earlier!) books in this series.

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  1. I liked how you explained it to be more of a mystery novel with that kind of focus, but just set in a historical time period. Not so much a historical fiction. Sometimes that can be nice as well. That's kind of how I view Agatha Christie's books, but they are only set in the past because of the time period they're written in.

    Olivia-S @ Olivia's Catastrophe

    1. I'd like to read more of this series and will hopefully stumble across the other novels before too long