The Merry Devils

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Westfield’s Men are confident their new comedy, THE MERRY DEVILS, will be yet another addition to their successful repertoire. The first performance of the play, however, results in the unexpected arrival of an extra devil. Moreover, the troupe find themselves visited by a series of disasters which threaten to ruin their reputation and that of their patron. The author of the play, Ralph Willoughby, is convinced that his research into the occult was too exact. In other words, the spell invoked by the actor to raise demons does just that. Although many of Westfield’s Men are in agreement, one of their number, Nicholas Bracewell, believes that the enemy is of earthly origin.

Even the unexplained death of one of the actors during a performance of the ill-fated play fails to shake Bracewell’s conviction that he must seek for answers among the living. His quest proves difficult, however, most especially after he is framed and cast into one of London’s more notorious jails. Meanwhile, things are not right at Parkbrook House, the estate of Lord Westfield’s nephew and heir. Moreover, although Bracewell is unaware of the fact, the key to the solution of the mystery lies in a cell in St. Mary of Bethlehem Hospital for the insane.

Edward Marston constructs a thoroughly intriguing tale of deceit, revenge, supernatural interference, and religious bigotry. THE MERRY DEVILS is a historically accurate evocation of Elizabethan England and the theaters of the day. Indeed, it is not only a mystery of the first rank but also an excellent addition to theater history.