The Theatre – London, 1592
When a player is murdered, suspicion falls on the wardrobe mistress, Magdalen Bisset, because everyone knows poison is a woman’s weapon. The scandal-pamphlets vilify her. The coroner is convinced of her guilt.
Magdalen is innocent, although few are willing to help her prove it. Her much-loved grandmother is too old and sick. Will Shakespeare is benignly detached, and her friend Christopher Marlowe is wholly unreliable. Only one man offers his assistance, but dare she trust him when nothing about him rings true?
With just two weeks until the inquest, Magdalen ignores anonymous threats to ‘leave it be’, and delves into the dangerous underworld of a city seething with religious and racial tension. As time runs out, she must risk everything in her search for the true killer – for all other roads lead to the gallows.
I was born and raised in Yorkshire where my father inspired my love of history from an early age. He is a born story teller and would take us to the top of Iron Age hillforts, often as dusk was falling, and regale us with stirring tales of battles lost and won. Not surprisingly, I went on to study Classics at university, and still love spending my summers on archaeological digs. For me, there is nothing more thrilling than finding an artefact that has not seen the light of day for thousands of years. I find so much inspiration for my novels from archaeology.
I have had a variety of jobs over the years, including working for the British Forces newspaper in Germany, and at the BBC. When our family was little, the only available space for me to write was a small walk-in wardrobe. The children used to say, ‘oh, mum’s in the cupboard again’.
I have written four historical novels: The King’s Daughter explores the story of Aethelflaed, the Lady of the Mercians. The Saxon Wolves and the Saxon Plague are both set in fifth century AD, a time of enormous upheaval and uncertainty in Britain as the Romans departed and the Saxon era began. My latest is something a bit different. Twelve Nights is a crime thriller set in sixteenth century London, and features William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.
I now live with my husband in the Hampshire countryside. Like many others during the pandemic, we decided to try growing our own fruit and vegetables – with mixed results! We can only get better!
Social Media Links
Facebook: Penny Ingham Author Page | Facebook
Instagram: Penny Ingham (@penny.ingham)
Website: Penny Ingham (wordpress.com)
Giveaway to Win a PB copy of Twelve Nights (Open to UK Only)
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
As historical fiction goes, Twelve Nights is rich in detail, both regarding the setting but also the mood that conveys the strong – and menacing – anti-Papist vibe of the era. It’s a dangerous time to be Catholic … and a woman, it seems. Pestilence and poverty are rife, and the injustice of the class system is never more visible.
As mysteries go, the story has a solid and intriguing plot in which you easily root for Magdalen Bisset for whom a death sentence looms large after a friend – a player – dies at the theatre in her arms. She’s innocent, we all know that, but the case builds against her for two reasons. Firstly, because she’s a woman – and poison is the instrument of female killers – and by virtue of her job at the theatre she was there when the first man died. Tenuous? These days, yes, but back then people were hanged for such flimsy claims. Of course, the second reason is yet more disagreeable since the officer charging her with murder is acting mainly from spite, his “charms” spurned years ago by Magdalen’s grandmother.
Fascinating, isn’t it?
With Shakespeare and Marlowe in the mix, competing for recognition and audience, Magdalen is friends with both men. They come across as self-centred men, hell-bent on their own goals, yet there are touching moments of support from both – even if one of them takes that support too far in Magdalen’s eyes.
While she tries to find who killed her friend, she has to live through hostility from her landlady, unwanted advances of her landlord, all while trying to keep a roof over her head and that of her grandmother who is in the throes of dementia and very unpredictable. Notes warning her to stop pursuing her investigations fail to discourage her, though the fear is very real.
As if that was not enough, a possible love interest rocks her world and she sees her grandmother incarcerated for attending a Catholic Mass. Regardless, she battles on to find the killer … but the outcome of her quest only gives way to a much bigger – and more damaging – truth.
The story is resolved in part and leaves the way open for a sequel that I’ll be keen to check out when the times comes.
For more news and reviews,