The Widows Guild by Anna Castle is an engrossing historical mystery with an intriguing and dynamic protagonist: the one and only Francis Bacon – philosopher, scientist, statesman, and possible author of Shakespeare’s plays.
Part 3 of the Francis Bacon Mysteries is set in London in 1588: under threat by a Spanish Armada, a killer is using the unrest as cover to murder Catholics. Unscrupulous Lady Alice Trumpington has designs on killing her husband, but he ends up dead by another person’s hand, yet is locked away in the prison tower. Bacon is tasked to free her from her bondage, and he soon discovers that other murders are afoot, leading him through the upper echelons of London society, and hounded by a cadre of impatient widows desperate for him to solve the crimes.
A mystery with Francis Bacon at the helm had the potential to be silly, or unbelievable, but the breadth of Anna Castle’s research, and her deftness as a writer, make The Widows Guild highly satisfying – not just as a mystery, but as a complex work of historical fiction. Through it all, the book doesn’t get bogged down with research, which is an impressive balancing act on Castle’s part: the book manages to be both page turning and detailed. Put all together, this is a deeply successful historical mystery with a fully-realized historical setting and engaging plot to the end.