Monday, April 13, 2015

"The Masque of a Murderer"

Susanna Calkins, an historian and educator, is the author of three historical mysteries set in seventeenth-century London. Her books have been shortlisted for several awards, including the Bruce Alexander Historical mystery award. She applied the Page 69 Test to The Masque of a Murderer, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Your husband seems to have been a very generous man,” Lucy said, indicating her hastily written script. “Devoted to helping others.”

“Oh, how the Light of God flowed through him!” Joan said.

The woman in white began to sway and croon softly again, and Lucy could make no sense of her words.

“She is Ahivah,” Deborah whispered. “My aunt. She likens herself to the Old Testament prophet, the one who warned Jeroboam that his lost kingdom would soon be restored. She foretold the return of King Charles seven years ago. The king called her his ‘Woman in White.’ That is why she still wears white today. Hoping he will recall her and her ‘strange prophecy.’”

Was there a hint of scorn in Deborah’s voice? Lucy noticed the other Quakers were starting to frown, although Ahivah paid her no attention.

“Hush, child,” Joan said, a warning in her voice.
In The Masque of a Murderer, Lucy Campion, printer’s apprentice, has been asked to record the last dying words of a man who was run over by a cart the day before. The man is a Quaker, part of one of the many dissenting sects that emerged in mid-17th century England. It was a common practice to have such dying testimonies to be cheaply printed in order to inspire others.

Before he dies, however, the man tells Lucy that someone had deliberately pushed him in front of that cart, and that he suspected his murderer was someone close to his family, maybe a member of his own community.

On Page 69, Lucy has returned to the Quakers, claiming that she needs more details to flesh out the man’s story. But secretly she is trying to gather information about who might have wanted to kill him. Some of the tensions among the Quakers can be seen in this passage, as well as some of the larger themes of the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Susanna Calkins's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: A Murder at Rosamund's Gate.

--Marshal Zeringue