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Authors: Anne Rutherford

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The Twelfth Night Murder

BOOK: The Twelfth Night Murder
6.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


The Opening Night Murder

“Anne Rutherford brings the world of Restoration England to vivid life, from the teeming streets to the halls of the royal palace. Her heroine, Suzanne Thornton, has always done what she must to survive in a cruel world where women count for little, and now she must solve a murder to save the one person in the world she truly loves.”

—Victoria Thompson, national bestselling author of
Murder in Murray Hill

“I read this book in one sitting, captivated by Rutherford’s vivid depiction of actors and aristocrats, political intrigue, and her strong, resourceful heroine. The world of Restoration London and its theaters leaps off the page in this impressive novel.”

—Carol K. Carr, national bestselling author of
India Black and the Gentleman Thief


A Question of Guilt

“An interesting historical fiction novel . . . An intriguing saga.”

Genre Book Review

“Lee’s excellently researched novel is written in a fluid, engaging style and is full of intrigue, cover-ups, and plots. Her investigation of this historical mystery provides a vivid theory of what might have happened between Mary Stuart and Henry Darnley and will keep readers turning the pages.”

Historical Novels Review

“Julianne Lee’s
A Question of Guilt
is a sprawling tale of treason, justice, and the secrets people keep. It is very much rooted in historical facts and . . . the writing style is flawless.”

Romance Reader at Heart

Her Mother’s Daughter

“An epic tale of passion, intrigue, tragedy, betrayal, and treachery all combined into a story too powerful for history to contain. With creative weaving, Julianne Lee has combined true characters with possible dialogue and intent that ring true to the story and time period. For any fan of historical entertainment,
Her Mother’s Daughter
is a definite must-read book.”

Night Owl Reviews

“For the many readers who like to focus on the Tudor era, this is a read that must be added to your library, both for its original storytelling and the unique approach the author utilizes to tell this compelling story of Mary Tudor.”

Burton Book Review

Her Mother’s Daughter
seamlessly displays the often overlooked woman behind Queen ‘Bloody’ Mary. Julianne Lee handles a typically despised character so beautifully that the reader develops unexpected sympathy for a queen who clawed her way out of the depths of disrespect only to find more loneliness and desperation . . . Lee’s engaging novel submerges the reader into local and worldwide political intrigue to fully depict the world in which Mary lived . . . [A] wonderfully written book.”

Romance Junkies

“Lee presents an unbiased portrait of Mary Tudor, and for readers eager to find out what happened following the death of Henry VIII, this novel is highly satisfying.”

RT Book Reviews

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Anne Rutherford





Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

A Penguin Random House Company

Copyright © 2014 by Julianne Lee.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.

BERKLEY® PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-14452-1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Rutherford, Anne, 1956–

The Twelfth Night murder / Anne Rutherford.—Berkley trade paperback edition.

pages cm—(A Restoration mystery; 3)

ISBN 978-0-425-25561-2 (paperback)

1. Theater—England—London—Fiction. 2. Female impersonators—Violence against—Fiction. 3. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. 4. London (England)—History—17th century—Fiction. 5. Great Britain—History—Restoration, 1660–1688—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3618.U778T84 2014




Berkley Prime Crime trade paperback edition / September 2014

Cover illustration by Griesbach/Martucci.

Cover design by Jason Gill.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


For my editor, Ginjer Buchanan, who over the decades has changed my life in ways I can’t begin to explain.


Praise for Anne Rutherford

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Anne Rutherford

Title Page



Author’s Note


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Author’s Note

The Twelfth Night Murder
is the fifteenth historical novel I’ve written for publication. Ordinarily I would never take liberties with history, since I have immense respect for the truth. However, in this series I found it inconvenient that Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was torn down by Cromwell’s anti-cultural administration a number of years before I needed it. I am as annoyed by that as the people of London at the time must have been. But unlike them I am working inside a fictional world of my own design. By definition, many of the things in this book are untrue. Among those things is the presence of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I needed a theatre, and it was just as well to have a fictional one. Such a small thing, and I’m sure I’ve made actual errors of greater consequence than this. So please forgive me my deliberate anachronism, and any other minor flaws I may have perpetrated more accidentally.

Over the years I’ve thanked folks who have helped me in my research and my efforts in publication. Today I would like to give a nod to my readers, who are the reason I continue to write. You’ve been such an appreciative audience, and I’ve been so neglectful in acknowledging you. Thank you all for your attention. I hope you will enjoy this, the third in the Restoration Mysteries.

For news of future books in this series, sign up for the free
History Geek
newsletter at

Anne Rutherford

Chapter One

n the dressing room after the day’s performance at the Globe Theatre, Suzanne Thornton sat before the paint table, and sagged happily, exhausted but exhilarated. A dozen or so candles lit the room with a lively, warm flicker. The Players around her chattered and laughed, in high spirits after a show that had been well received by their audience. In spite of the January cold, with the promise of snow in the air—or perhaps because of it—The New Globe Players’ presentation of Shakespeare’s
Twelfth Night
brought much applause and laughter of the kind that made the performers want to join in. Sometimes it was difficult to keep a straight face in the comedies, and that was Suzanne’s great weakness onstage, for in the past she had never had much to smile about and these days she was sorely tempted to laugh whenever she could.

Nevertheless, it was a joy to have returned to the stage. After a lifetime of struggling to escape the predatory notice of those more powerful than herself, and at her age when there were few opportunities to attract benevolent attention from anyone, appreciative audiences were a delight. Life was finally looking up.

She picked up the troupe’s newly purchased mirror from the table and propped it against a ceramic mug filled with paintbrushes standing on end. The mirror was small, but was all she could afford for The New Globe Players just then, and far nicer than the large, ragged shard they’d all been using up to last week. At the moment, Matthew had the old mirror, a big piece of broken, silvered glass, with patches of the silvering missing from the back and its sharp edges filed down and covered in melted wax. It sat propped against a small wooden box of lead powder, all of which smelled sharply of sheep fat and oil, with an underlying earthiness of talc. To Suzanne it was a smell uniquely theatrical. It smelled of home.

Matthew sat opposite Suzanne, removing white lead paint from his face with linseed oil and speaking to Liza, the girl who was their Viola these days, in cheerful, self-congratulatory terms. Besides playing the central character in
Twelfth Night
, Liza was the girl at the center of Matthew’s affections, and just then he sounded a bit condescending in his assessment of her performance that afternoon. He seemed disparaging of women acting on the stage, telling her she had done well that day, for a woman.

“Nonsense,” Suzanne said in a light,
don’t be silly
tone as she wiped oil over the blacking around her eyes until she looked much as she often had in her youth after having been beaten by her father. “She was absolutely perfect. No man could have played that role better than our woman.”

From across the room, Louis chimed in. “Kynaston could have. He’s far prettier than Liza, and his voice carries into the rafters. The man’s a genius.”

Suzanne shook her head. “He’s a sodomite, and should have been born a woman.”

“He’s not prettier,” said Liza in a defensive, slightly horrified voice. “He’s a skinny, soft boy whose balls never dropped, and the only reason anybody thinks he can play women is that they’ve never seen a real one onstage before.”

“He’s an artist,” Louis continued. “I saw him once. In
The Maid’s Tragedy
, last year.” His voice took on a note of admiration Suzanne thought a little strange. She’d often heard people talk of Ned Kynaston that way. She’d also seen him on the stage, and knew he possessed a beauty so androgynous that it seemed the whole of London wanted to bed him, men and women. She herself confessed to a slight attraction, though her preference was very much for hard-edged, mature masculinity and not so very much for Kynaston’s bee-stung lips and doe eyes. He really did seem an innocent, prepubescent boy, though he was in his early twenties and by all accounts was not so very particular where he slept.

She said, “The fellow is exceedingly fair, and decidedly undecided in his sex. But that doesn’t make him a woman, or even a facsimile to portray us on the stage. At best he paints a picture of us in broad strokes so that the male audience can comprehend in unsubtle ways. In short, young fellows, he simplifies so those such as you might comprehend womanhood on an elementary level, which is, after all, your capacity.”

Louis and Matthew fell silent and gazed at her for a moment, Louis with a puzzled crease between his eyes and Matthew’s eyes narrowed in search of a suitably witty retort. He didn’t find one. Liza snickered to herself with a breathy,

Matthew opened his mouth to respond, but was interrupted when one of their young boy actors, who went by Christian, blew into the room at top speed, skidded to a stop just inside the door, and said in a near-shout, “Mistress Thornton!” He swayed where he stood at the end of his slide. “You’ve a visitor!”

There were always visitors after a show. Everyone in the audience who thought they might have a chance at going backstage to socialize with the actors came after the show or before it. Horatio, who directed the plays and often acted in them, was ever struggling to keep the green room and dressing room from filling wall to wall with those who wished to be actors but hadn’t the talent or discipline for it. Some sought sexual liaison with the performers, and others simply wished to bask in reflected glory and tell of it later to their friends. Since the Globe Theatre was not the most fashionable playhouse in London, the quality of their visitors was never high, and Horatio’s effort was mostly aimed at keeping out those who would steal costumes and properties. She asked, “Who is it?”

He shook his head. “Dunno, mistress. She’s a queer old woman, I vow. Dressed a bit strange, like she was fresh from the countryside but . . . I dunno. Strange.”

Suzanne was tired. It was time for supper, and she could smell it being prepared by her maid downstairs. Having spent the entire afternoon entertaining people, she was ready to have the evening to herself. “Tell her I’ve gone home. Since I live on the premises, that won’t be a lie.”

“Very well, mistress.” With that, Christian bolted from the room as speedily as he’d arrived, leaving Louis to close the door behind him. The boy returned in but a few moments, before Suzanne could wipe the remaining paint from her face.

“Mistress Thornton, begging your pardon and sorry to disturb you again, but the woman outside is insisting she be permitted to see you.”

Suzanne turned from her mirror, resigned to deal with this. “What, exactly, does this woman want?”

“She says she would warn you.”

As much as Suzanne knew this must be a ploy of some sort, her curiosity was now piqued. Ignoring a warning was one thing, but to never even hear it was tempting fate a bit too much. She said, “Very well. Show her in.”

Christian ran out again at full speed, dodging others standing in the room awaiting a turn at the table.

Suzanne hurried to get as much paint from her face as she could, and had begun wiping the oil with a dry cloth when Christian returned with an old woman in tow.

The crone was old indeed, and dressed very strangely. She wore no bodice, but only a skirt and a long maroon scarf tied at her midriff that restrained her blouse. Another scarf, an orange one that bore a ragged fringe, lay draped about her hips. From its knot at her side hung a purse of bright, shiny red silk. The skirt was a lively orange and red print, faded now but clearly it had once been bright and eye-catching. Her blouse was relatively new and of a deep turquoise color that argued bitterly with the rest of the costume. Beneath the baggy and loosely woven cotton, her large breasts swayed and sloshed without restraint. Its sleeves gathered at the wrist then splayed in copious blue lace to beyond her fingertips. Her hands were quite lost in it until she flipped it back to reveal them and the enormous jeweled rings she wore on gnarled fingers. Her hands were great clusters of knobby knuckles and semiprecious stones, connected by fingers little more substantial than her bones. Yet another scarf, this one of bright green, adorned her head, secured at the nape of her neck with a simple brooch of plain copper. Long, wavy gray hair spilled from under the scarf, nearly to her waist. Amid the festive explosion of color she wore a wide smile and revealed a surprising number of teeth for one so obviously aged.

“Hello,” she said, her words oddly clipped and her smile a bit stiff. “’Tis a good thing to meet you today, mistress. I’ve got an earful for ye.” She nodded as if to affirm her words, then turned her attention on Matthew at the table and gave him a hard stare.

Matthew seemed unsure what she wanted from him, but then realized it was his seat she expected. Without argument, he vacated the chair and took his mirror and rag with him to stand aside, where he resumed wiping oil from his face. The woman sat, and returned her attention to Suzanne.

“My name is Esmeralda La Tournelle. I am the astrologer to King Charles and many of his court.”

Suzanne recognized the name. La Tournelle had a long reputation in London for her odd predictions that often were realized. Many Londoners, especially those of the Puritan and Presbyterian bent, decried her as a devil woman, but Suzanne couldn’t dismiss her or her craft entirely. She knew from experience there was something to observing the movements of planets in God’s orderly creation. She nodded to the old woman. “A pleasure to meet you, Mistress La Tournelle.” It was indeed a pleasure, for the woman’s fame was far greater than her own, and a presence of power followed her like a cloud of energy, a nearly visible thickening of the air around her so that one couldn’t help staring at her. She seemed to fill the room all by herself, leaving little space for anyone else. All eyes were on her, and all conversation in the room ceased.

“Call me Esmeralda. I’m mistress of naught other than my fate. I’ve come to do you a good turn.” Now her graciousness filled the room and everyone in it was put at ease.

Suzanne smiled, but was buying little of it yet. “And what will this good turn cost me?”

The woman’s eyes darkened and she lost her smile. Her back straightened and she raised her chin. “I charge them as come to me, and them who has more money than they truly need. You ain’t among them. Not yet, in any case. I’ve come to warn you of an event that will possibly change your life.”

“I expect there will be a great many events in my future that will change my life. It is the nature of the world, and of life as God has given it to us.”

The woman shook her head. “This is a crossroads that you must avoid, and you will come to it soon.”

“Why must I avoid it?” Suzanne glanced at the others in the room, inviting them in on her jest. “My life isn’t so perfect that I wouldn’t want a change.”

A low chuckle riffled through the room.

“Hear me, Mistress Thornton.” A severity hardened the lines in La Tournelle’s very lined face. Her pale blue eyes appeared icy, and a shiver skittered down Suzanne’s spine.

All of a sudden the woman’s presence made Suzanne uncomfortable, the way bad news made one wish to return to the moment before. She wished she hadn’t allowed Christian to bring this strange, old woman into the room. Suzanne would have liked to have her removed, but her bourgeois upbringing wouldn’t permit her that sort of gracelessness. Her manners may have been ordinary, and over the years many had worn off or had been beaten from her, but there were some things one just did not do. Particularly since life was improving and she hoped it would continue to do so. She smiled at her uninvited guest and said, “I’m listening.”

The old woman leaned close as if imparting a secret, though everyone in the room was listening and most were leaning in, the better to hear every word. She said, loudly enough for all to hear, “Beware the river tonight for it will bring you death.”

“The river?” The wide, filthy Thames was not far from the theatre, and when the wind was from the north one could smell it and the things floating on it. “How will it do that?” Suzanne had no plans for boating or bathing that night, but her favorite public house was in a short alley just off Bank Side. She would more than likely come very near the water sometime that evening. “I should stay away?”

La Tournelle gestured overhead with one gnarled hand and waving fingers, staring upward as if gazing at a night sky. “The stars have revealed to me that your life will be changed soon, by water, and death stalks you.”

“As it does us all.”

“It will figure significantly during the coming weeks. You will be consumed by it, and it may consume you.”

Suzanne opened her mouth to point out the oxymoronic nature of her comment, but changed her mind as she saw the different meanings of “consume.” But La Tournelle still made little sense. “Do you mean I’ll drown?”

The old woman shrugged. “That is one possibility, if the sign is to be taken literally.”

“And if not literally?”

“The water will figure mightily in your life.”

“Any water? Not necessarily the Thames?”

“Do you know any seamen?”

There was the pirate who had attacked her a couple of months ago, but she shook her head. That man was in prison, awaiting hanging or pardon according to the king’s pleasure. She didn’t know any seamen, and had never seen the ocean. Nor even the English Channel, for that. She’d lived in London her entire life and for lack of means had never strayed far.

BOOK: The Twelfth Night Murder
6.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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