’The Stratford Conspiracy’ by Michael Mallory

RIDGE WRITERS ON BOOKS REVIEW By DONNA McCrohan Rosenthal

’The Stratford Conspiracy’ by Michael MalloryMichael Mallory has acted in films and stage productions, and his TV appearances have ranged from “Days of Our Lives” and “General Hospital” to “Vegas” and “Mad Men.”

If you had to describe the type he plays, you might declare without hesitation, “He looks like a gangster.” Yet he writes, at least in his Amelia Watson historical mysteries, like an Edwardian woman. Not just any Edwardian woman, mind you, but the witty and observant wife of Dr. John Watson of Sherlock Holmes fame.

Mallory introduced Amelia to star in his short stories, yet she achieved such popularity that a longer tale became a must.

In his novel “The Stratford Conspiracy,” he takes her from London and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum to William Shake-speare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, where she encounters multiple murders, thwarted lovers, scholarly shenanigans, shadowy figures in the dark, a scheme to dig up Shakespeare’s bones, a corpse that refuses to stay dead, any number of people passing themselves off as somebody else and — looming as the most potentially astounding impersonation of all time — the possibility that Queen Elizabeth was the Bard.

Before long, even Amelia succumbs to a ruse that she fears can only fail.

Her cohorts include a Canadian detective, a Scotland Yard inspector, a grieving widow, and one of Amelia’s oldest friends, a hard-drinking theater performer who absolutely attracts trouble, generally extracts himself only with her help, and “had a comedian’s way of putting a crescendo into a sentence so that mirth was inevitable — even if the sentence was, ‘My faithful spaniel was just trampled by a team of oxen.’”

Much of the plot revolves around the “who really penned Shakespeare’s works?” controversy and in examining it, Mallory toys with the question of whether a man can in fact capture the female point of view.

Speaking of Lady Macbeth, one character asks, “Could a male author really limn her with such incredible complexity with such a degree of femaleness? I say to you, no.”

Readers of “The Stratford Conspiracy” would probably not agree. Mallory has admirably mastered the necessary voice and perceptions for Dr. Watson’s spunky better half.

The world unravels around her, she manages to put it back together again, the plot delivers, the England of Sherlock Holmes springs to life, and Amelia Watson most definitely rings true.

This weekly column is written by members of the Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Meetings are held the first Wednesday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church, and free programs are offered throughout the year.

Ridge Writers’ book “Planet Mojave: Visions From a World Apart” is available at Carriage Inn, Jawbone Station, the Historic USO Building, the Maturango Museum, Red Rock Books and online from the official website www.planetmojave.com.

Story First Published: 2013-05-15