Set in 1758, the latest well-crafted and entertaining Ben Franklin mystery (after The Case of the Christmas Murder ) finds the Pennsylvania colony's astute agent in England waging a snail-paced bureacratic battle with the Penn family. With him are his new-found natural son, 12-year-old aspiring artist Nick Handy, and his elder son William, law student and bedazzled admirer of a young actress at David Garrick's Drury Lane theater. But darkness--both actual and metaphorical--threatens the playhouse. Soon inventive Ben is not only devising improved stage lighting but also investigating anonymous letters, attempted arson and murder. Deftly plotted and chock full of historical tidbits, the tale offers a lively mix of real and fictional personalities in vividly depicted 18th-century London streets, taverns and backstage milieux. A recurrent theme here is the anguished situation of women at a time when marriage was virtual slavery, since a woman's possessions, salary and even children were the legal property of her husband. (Nov.)
Ben Franklin and son/narrator Nick return to London, where they witness a heckler's untimely death at the staging of a new play. Third in the delightful series.
Hall continues his series of Benjamin Franklin whodunits with a top-notch thriller set in the epicenter of eighteenth-century London's bawdy theater district. In addition to conducting pressing political business for the colony of Pennsylvania, Ben also manages to become ensnared in another particularly nasty case of murder. Together with his illegitimate son and indispensable sidekick Nick Handy, Franklin attempts to solve a succession of homicides plaguing the popular Drury Lane Theatre. After he begins receiving threatening letters, David Garrick, the legendary actor, impressario, and co-owner of the Drury Lane, implores the renowned American agitator and inventor to unmask the culprit. When Ben links the disturbing communiques to the seemingly accidental deaths of a disgruntled patron and a scorned playwright, the tension mounts. As the list of suspects narrows to a handful of wayward noblemen and ambitious thespians, the stage is set for yet another fatal confrontation. Hall does an admirable job of capturing Franklin's unique blend of provincial charm and cosmopolitan savvy. A superbly executed and delivered historical mystery.