Invitation to a Funeral: A Tale of Restoration Intrigue

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London, 1676: Spy-turned-playwright Aphra Behn is having more than her share of troubles. Her last play was a flop and her financial situation is getting desperate: she's in debt to a moneylender who could have her arrested for nonpayment at any time. When she casts the Earl of Rochester's mistress, Elizabeth Decker, as the lead in her new comedy, she deeply regrets it. Lord Rochester has bet the Duke of Buckingham that he can turn the theatrically challenged Elizabeth into the best actress on the London stage, ...
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Overview

London, 1676: Spy-turned-playwright Aphra Behn is having more than her share of troubles. Her last play was a flop and her financial situation is getting desperate: she's in debt to a moneylender who could have her arrested for nonpayment at any time. When she casts the Earl of Rochester's mistress, Elizabeth Decker, as the lead in her new comedy, she deeply regrets it. Lord Rochester has bet the Duke of Buckingham that he can turn the theatrically challenged Elizabeth into the best actress on the London stage, and he's offered to cut Aphra in on his winnings. But there are other more dangerous matters afoot, and when Aphra offers to organize the funeral of a murdered man it seems her troubles are only just beginning. The deaths of two brothers turn out to be linked to the discovery of a secret document which could - unless Aphra moves quickly - plunge England into another civil war.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The deaths of two impoverished brothersone found murdered in her own back yarddraw 17th-century playwright Aphra Behn into royal court intrigues in this atmospheric debut. Aphra has troubles of her own, including a soured love affair with a drunken attorney, a doltish lead actress foisted upon her by the dissolute Lord Rochester and enough debts to get her arrested. But one of the dead men is Matthew Cavell, who once helped her in a great hour of need, so she feels bound to organize a proper funeral for him. Meanwhile, the paramours of King Charles II vie for power in the palace. One of them, Nell Gwyn, brings her friend Aphra into the royal orbit. Are the Restoration religious and political battles connected to the puzzling interest of some nobles in the deaths of the two destitute men? Brown generously mixes factual and fictional Restoration history and campy dramaincluding such devices as secret passageways, knockout drops in the claret and manipulative mistressesto great effect. (May)
School Library Journal
YA-Leading readers back to the London of 1676, Brown provides all the sensual descriptions needed to conjure up the squalor in which most of the population lived. Aphra Behn, striving to get her new play into production, keep creditors away, and put her love life back into order, finds none of her efforts working. Into her already chaotic life appear two brothers who befriended her 15 years ago when she desperately needed their help. Aphra rallies to help them, only to become involved in the circumstances of both of their deaths. Deeply grieved over her misguided attempt to aid, she arranges both funerals and unwittingly becomes even more mired in intrigue, mystery, and personal danger. The largest part of the action takes place on the palace grounds of King Charles II with its luxury and opulence dramatically contrasting with the other major scenes. Aphra's best friend turns out to be Nell Gwyn, the actress and mistress of the King, and a strong ally in solving most of the heroine's personal problems. Various other figures from that era turn up also, adding a dash of reality to the story. The mix of adventure, history, and the surprise twist should appeal to most YAs, especially those who enjoy strong heroines.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A first novel set in the Restoration London of 1676. King Charles is on his rocky throne, surrounded by a full complement of spies, lackeys, and mistresses. Among the latter is the Italian Duchess of Mazarin, whoþs now supplanted the Duchess of Portsmouth. Nell Gwyn, a longtime favorite, is also still on the scene when a poet-playwright friend, Aphra Behn, enlists her help in the tutelage of would-be actress Elizabeth Decker, mistress of the Earl of Rochester, for the leading part in her newest playþa move Aphra hopes will improve her near-penniless state. She has opted to provide a funeral for Matthew and Elias Cavell, brothers who had been kind to her family on their harrowing ship journey nine years ago to Surinam, during which Aphraþs father had died. Approached one day by Elias, now a wasted beggar, she had gone to the Gospel House shelter, where she found an unrecognizable Matthew dead in his bed. Elias is found soon after, stabbed to death in Aphraþs own outhouse. As if all this werenþt enough, thereþs Bevil Cane, tutor to Nellþs son, pestering her to read his play; her incorrigible sometime lover John Hoyle, secretly in and out of her house; and, in the background, a panoply of conspiracies at Court; animosities between Protestant and Catholic; the search for a politically volatile document and, at long last, Aphraþs near-fatal encounter with Eliasþs killer. The story, burdened by subplots and a procession of unmemorable characters, often in disguise, sometimes approaches total confusion. Still, thereþs a clutch of strong-minded women, a lively picture of Court life and Londonþs fetid streets, and Brownþsairy, unpretentious style. For fans of historical mysteries: a mildly interesting debut.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312970949
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1995
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 4.25 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.68 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 2, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Cliche

    Aphra is an alluring, intelligent woman who writes plays and dabbles in the the social scene that swirls around the court of King Charles II. She seems to know everyone, and still remains impoverished though she works very hard. When two former acquaintances, who happen to be brothers, reappear in her life only to turn up dead the next day, Aphra is compelled to see that they get justice. This promising plot fails, mainly because the characters come across as cliches and most of the "action" consists of inane conversations of the "O whatever shall I do" order. The King's infamous mistresses flounce around being alternately catty or despairing of his "love", and Nell Gwyn actually wades into Aphra's investigation.

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