A Mystery of Murder and Prejudice Set in Elizabethan England and Inspired by Fact

Frobisher’s Savage: An Elizabethan Murder Mystery, by Leonard Tourney, (Endeavor Press), 245 pages, release date 1 April, 2016

In May, I reviewed Leonard Tourney’s The Player’s Boy Is Dead, a murder mystery set in Elizabethan England. That book was interesting, but not completely successful. Frobisher’s Savage is another volume in Tourney’s series and offers a more satisfying tale than did The Player’s Boy Is Dead.

Frobisher’s Savage has its root in fact: in 1576, explorer Martin Frobisher returned to England from a voyage in which he claimed he has reached Cathay (he’d actually reached Canada). As proofs of his success he brought back evidence both mineral and human—black rocks that he claimed contained gold and a “savage” he named Adam Nemo.

Tourney’s mystery places Nemo as a servant on a country estate and provides him with a friend, Nicholas, a deaf-mute boy living on a nearby farm. When Nicholas’s parents and two of his siblings are murdered, suspicion quickly comes to rest on these two outsiders. Neither Nemo nor Nicholas has a real motive, but that is less important that the fact of their differences from the local population.

The plotting of this novel is solid, but it’s the characters and their perceptions of one another that stand out. Tourney’s imagined Nemo is a fascinating character, a man who has had little control over the events of his own life and who cannot remember much of his own story pre-England. If you’re curious about social and racial hierarchies in Elizabethan England, you will find this title a thought-provoking read.

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