100 books like The Merry Devils

By Edward Marston,

Here are 100 books that The Merry Devils fans have personally recommended if you like The Merry Devils. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Dark Fire

Toni Mount Author Of The Colour of Bone

From my list on murder mysteries to challenge your brain cells.

Why am I passionate about this?

Many years ago, when I’d read my first medieval mystery, I decided I wanted to write my own. But mine would be as realistic as I could manage; I wanted the reader to smell medieval London and to be there with me. A lot had been written about Kings and Queens but not much about ordinary life so that became the center of my academic study leading eventually to my Master's Degree in medieval medicine. As well as my novels I now write popular factual books and I’m pleased to say people have taken the time to say how much they enjoy the fine details I share.

Toni's book list on murder mysteries to challenge your brain cells

Toni Mount Why did Toni love this book?

This is the second Matthew Shardlake adventure from the pen of a master craftsman, set at the time of Henry VIII.

I was embroiled in danger alongside the lawyer as he fights to save a girl accused of murder from the hangman’s noose and recover a long-lost ancient secret. I learned that the intriguing machinations going on in a Tudor court of law are as shifty and tangled as those at the royal court in Whitehall.

I visited many a seedy London tavern with side-kick Barak during that searing hot summer of 1540, smelling the sour stink of sweaty humanity as the body count increased and met Shardlake’s nemesis, Richard Rich. Brilliant stuff!    

By C.J. Sansom,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Dark Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When a friend's niece is charged with murder and threatened with torture for her refusal to speak, 1540 lawyer Matthew Sharklake is granted an unexpected two-week reprieve to investigate the case if he will also accept a dangerous assignment to find a legendary weapon of mass destruction. By the author of Dissolution. 25,000 first printing.


Book cover of Monk's-Hood: The Third Chronicle of Brother Cadfael

Toni Mount Author Of The Colour of Bone

From my list on murder mysteries to challenge your brain cells.

Why am I passionate about this?

Many years ago, when I’d read my first medieval mystery, I decided I wanted to write my own. But mine would be as realistic as I could manage; I wanted the reader to smell medieval London and to be there with me. A lot had been written about Kings and Queens but not much about ordinary life so that became the center of my academic study leading eventually to my Master's Degree in medieval medicine. As well as my novels I now write popular factual books and I’m pleased to say people have taken the time to say how much they enjoy the fine details I share.

Toni's book list on murder mysteries to challenge your brain cells

Toni Mount Why did Toni love this book?

A real classic whodunnit and an old-school case of poisoning.

I loved every word of Ellis Peter’s third book in her Brother Cadfael series, taking me back to the turbulent times of King Stephen and the Empress Matilda in the twelfth century – a period I find intriguing. And with the wise and friendly Cadfael, the abbey’s herbalist and unraveller of dastardly deeds to guide the reader, I was hooked from the start.

And what happens when a celibate monk encounters an old flame? Do sparks fly? I couldn’t wait to find out. Cadfael is a proper page turner. 

By Ellis Peters,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Monk's-Hood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brother Cadfael, Benedictine monk and self-appointed detective of Shrewsbury Abbey, defends a young man accused of poisoning his stepfather, a guest at the abbey, and pursues several seemingly obscure clues to expose the murderer


Book cover of Prince Edward's Warrant

Toni Mount Author Of The Colour of Bone

From my list on murder mysteries to challenge your brain cells.

Why am I passionate about this?

Many years ago, when I’d read my first medieval mystery, I decided I wanted to write my own. But mine would be as realistic as I could manage; I wanted the reader to smell medieval London and to be there with me. A lot had been written about Kings and Queens but not much about ordinary life so that became the center of my academic study leading eventually to my Master's Degree in medieval medicine. As well as my novels I now write popular factual books and I’m pleased to say people have taken the time to say how much they enjoy the fine details I share.

Toni's book list on murder mysteries to challenge your brain cells

Toni Mount Why did Toni love this book?

Mel Starr is an American author who deserves to be better known for his Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton set in late fourteenth-century England.

Hugh is a surgeon as well as bailiff of Brampton. In this eleventh tale, Hugh is escorted to Kensington Palace, his expertise required to treat the ailing Black Prince. But I knew things had to get more serious than that and, sure enough, murder is committed.

Mel Starr’s research is impeccable and I found myself in the heart of medieval England, encountering royalty, rogues, and worse villains. But Hugh’s medical knowledge means he can tell an accident from a deliberate killing and there’s no deceiving him when he’s on a murderer’s trail.

By Mel Starr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Prince Edward's Warrant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Another delightful and absorbing mystery from Mel Starr, keeping the reader guessing as the corpses pile up in Prince Edward's palace. Hugh de Singleton, of the dry wit and engaging humility, is one of my favourite sleuths.' Penelope Wilcock, British author and blogger

Master Hugh won the Black Prince's favour when he helped to ease the Prince's illness.

Now, in the autumn of 1372, the prince is suffering a relapse and sends to Bampton for Master Hugh to attend him. While at dinner in Kennington Palace, Sir Giles, the knight who escorted Hugh to London, is stricken and dies. Poison!…


Book cover of The Bookseller's Tale

Toni Mount Author Of The Colour of Bone

From my list on murder mysteries to challenge your brain cells.

Why am I passionate about this?

Many years ago, when I’d read my first medieval mystery, I decided I wanted to write my own. But mine would be as realistic as I could manage; I wanted the reader to smell medieval London and to be there with me. A lot had been written about Kings and Queens but not much about ordinary life so that became the center of my academic study leading eventually to my Master's Degree in medieval medicine. As well as my novels I now write popular factual books and I’m pleased to say people have taken the time to say how much they enjoy the fine details I share.

Toni's book list on murder mysteries to challenge your brain cells

Toni Mount Why did Toni love this book?

Again, we are in the fourteenth century, in Oxford, but following the first terrible onslaught of the Black Death. The title made this a must-read for me because my own sleuth, Seb Foxley, is involved with the making and selling of books, just like Ann Swinfen’s hero, Nicholas Elyot. I wasn’t disappointed.

The characters came alive for me and I too was sad when a good student was found drowned in the river. But the bookseller is suspicious and uncovers a villainous plot, putting him, his family and friends in danger.

A beautifully-woven medieval mystery; I had to read it in one go – forget the washing up. Fortunately, this is book 1 of the Oxford Medieval Mysteries so there’s more fun to come.

By Ann Swinfen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Bookseller's Tale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Oxford, Spring 1353. When young bookseller Nicholas Elyot discovers the body of student William Farringdon floating in the river Cherwell, it looks like a drowning. Soon, however, Nicholas finds evidence of murder. Who could have wanted to kill this promising student? As Nicholas and his scholar friend Jordain try to unravel what lies behind William’s death, they learn that he was innocently caught up in a criminal plot. When their investigations begin to involve town, university, and abbey, Nicholas takes a risky gamble – and puts his family in terrible danger.


Book cover of Lord Strange's Men and Their Plays

David McInnis Author Of Shakespeare and Lost Plays

From my list on to understand the history of Shakespeare's theatre.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Shakespeare scholar with a particular interest in theatre history and the repertories of the London commercial playing companies of the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries. I’m particularly fascinated by the hundreds of plays written during this period that have not survived, whether as the result of fire, vandalism, censorship, or more mundane causes like a lack of interest in or opportunity for publication. The surviving plays from the period are the distinct minority; yet the plays lost to us were known to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, who often wrote in response to what else was being performed across London.

David's book list on to understand the history of Shakespeare's theatre

David McInnis Why did David love this book?

In the wake of Knutson’s work, a number of seminal studies of individual playing companies from Shakespeare’s London have appeared, but I particularly value Manley and MacLean’s for the prominence they give to the role of lost plays in the repertory of Lord Strange’s Men. This book normalised the understanding that if one is to study a companyits patron, its players, its performance venues (including touring), and its stylethen one cannot do so without attending to the plays once performed by the company but which have since been lost.

By Lawrence Manley, Sally-Beth MacLean,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lord Strange's Men and Their Plays as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For a brief period in the late Elizabethan Era an innovative company of players dominated the London stage. A fellowship of dedicated thespians, Lord Strange's Men established their reputation by concentrating on "modern matter" performed in a spectacular style, exploring new modes of impersonation, and deliberately courting controversy. Supported by their equally controversial patron, theater connoisseur and potential claimant to the English throne Ferdinando Stanley, the company included Edward Alleyn, considered the greatest actor of the age, as well as George Bryan, Thomas Pope, Augustine Phillips, William Kemp, and John Hemings, who later joined William Shakespeare and Richard Burbage in…


Book cover of Shakespeare, the Queen's Men, and the Elizabethan Performance of History

Amy Lidster Author Of Publishing the History Play in the Time of Shakespeare: Stationers Shaping a Genre

From my list on Shakespeare and history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Lecturer in English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, where I specialize in early modern drama (including Shakespeare) and book history. Since my undergraduate degree, I have been fascinated by historical drama, poetry, prose, and the often-porous boundary between ’truth’ and fiction during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Most of my research–including a major project on ‘Wartime Shakespeare’ that produced two books and a public exhibition at The National Army Museum in London–explores the profound impact of the stories we tell about the past and what they reveal about concerns and interests in the present. 

Amy's book list on Shakespeare and history

Amy Lidster Why did Amy love this book?

I love this book because it spotlights performance contexts and conditions–what it means to stage history during the Elizabethan period–and, through this focus, provides fresh, nuanced interpretations of the plays it considers, including some by Shakespeare and others performed by Queen Elizabeth’s Men.

It is another formative book for me, especially because it negotiates ideas and representations of ‘truth’ in historical drama. Walsh’s book offers a compelling account of the communal construction of history and the interplay between presence and absence, which has also helped me understand my own methods as a critic and historian.

By Brian Walsh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shakespeare, the Queen's Men, and the Elizabethan Performance of History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Elizabethan history play was one of the most prevalent dramatic genres of the 1590s, and so was a major contribution to Elizabethan historical culture. The genre has been well served by critical studies that emphasize politics and ideology; however, there has been less interest in the way history is interrogated as an idea in these plays. Drawing in period-sensitive ways on the field of contemporary performance theory, this book looks at the Shakespearean history play from a fresh angle, by first analyzing the foundational work of the Queen's Men, the playing company that invented the popular history play. Through…


Book cover of Greek Tragedy and the British Theatre 1660-1914

J. Michael Walton Author Of Euripides Our Contemporary

From my list on Greek theatre for practitioners and audiences.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an Emeritus Professor of Drama at the University of Hull, translator of some twenty plays from Greek or Latin into English, a professional director, and a member of Equity for more than fifty years. I hope and believe that my own experience as a practitioner has blended with an educational background in Greek and Latin from St Andrews combined in my extensive list of publications on theatre history as author and editor to be found listed on my website.

J.'s book list on Greek theatre for practitioners and audiences

J. Michael Walton Why did J. love this book?

While the first two links are a good introduction to classical drama and theatre for the uninitiated, this third choice is different, a vast and unparalleled compendium covering productions of the whole corpus of direct and marginal translations of Greek tragedy on the English stage over some 250 years.

It is a work of reference rather than a ‘good read’, but it is a book into which I hope everyone would find reason to dip who believes in research as an essential feature of creative preparation for the new production of a ‘classic’.

The book is written by two of the most prominent and inspirational contemporary classical scholars whose prolific output in kindred areas of the classics and of theatre history has little rival.

Issues such as stage censorship, social and political change and translation bias show how the classical repertoire from Aeschylus through to Seneca has made it possible,…

By Edith Hall, Fiona Macintosh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Greek Tragedy and the British Theatre 1660-1914 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This lavishly illustrated book offers the first full, interdisciplinary investigation of the historical evidence for the presence of ancient Greek tragedy in the post-Restoration British theatre, where it reached a much wider audience - including women - than had access to the original texts. Archival research has excavated substantial amounts of new material, both visual and literary, which is presented in chronological order. But the fundamental aim is to explain
why Greek tragedy, which played an elite role in the curricula of largely conservative schools and universities, was magnetically attractive to political radicals, progressive theatre professionals, and to the aesthetic…


Book cover of The Rise of the Victorian Actor

Patsy Trench Author Of Mrs Morphett's Macaroons

From my list on early 20th century English theatre and actors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began my professional life as an actress and have skittered around the edges of theatre ever since, in various capacities. While I haven’t been on a stage for nearly forty years and I wouldn’t venture onto one at the point of a gun, I have always found the life of the actor fascinating. I’m old enough to have witnessed huge changes in the theatre over the decades, and it is intriguing to discover how much has changed—absconding managers are pretty well a thing of the past these days, and today’s actors don’t drink as muchyet how much the adaptability and single-minded passion of actors remain the same.

Patsy's book list on early 20th century English theatre and actors

Patsy Trench Why did Patsy love this book?

I’ve often wondered how it was that actors went from the ‘rogues and vagabonds’ of Shakespeare’s time through the days of early Victorian theatre, when acting was considered a highly disreputable profession, to apparent respectability at the end of the 19th century with the creation of the first theatrical knight, Sir Henry Irving. This book—again meticulously- and widely-researched—explains in a highly readable form how changing attitudes among politicians, audiences, and playwrights contributed to the rise in the status of actors, so that by the beginnings of the 20th century it was considered perfectly respectable for even a middle-class man—or woman—to enter the profession.  

By Michael Baker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rise of the Victorian Actor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally published in 1978. Between 1830 and 1890 the English theatre became recognisably modern. Standards of acting and presentation improved immeasurably, new playwrights emerged, theatres became more comfortable and more intimate and playgoing became a national pastime with all classes. The actor's status rose accordingly. In 1830 he had been little better than a social outcast; by 1880 he had become a member of a skilled, relatively well-paid and respected profession which was attracting new recruits in unprecedented numbers.

This is a social history of Victorian actors which seeks to show how wider social attitudes and developments affected the changing…


Book cover of Morality Play

Rosemary Poole-Carter Author Of Only Charlotte

From my list on readers who act out novels in their heads.

Why am I passionate about this?

Make-believe is my vocation, calling to me since earliest childhood. Not too surprising, for I was raised in a Southern Gothic household, simmering with mendacity and thwarted desires. Back then, I plotted stories for my dolls and scribbled plays of love and murder for backyard productions with the neighbor girls. Living and schooling were necessary preparation for the next story or play. To this day, while truly embracing my lived-life with passion and wonder, I still make sense of it, in part, through make-believe—an act that is both solitary and collaborative—writing dialogue for actors to interpret and novels for readers to perform in their own active imaginations.

Rosemary's book list on readers who act out novels in their heads

Rosemary Poole-Carter Why did Rosemary love this book?

In the plague years of 14th century England, a young runaway priest, Nicholas Barber, hides himself by joining a troupe of traveling players and thereby finds himself a new role in a wider world. Nicholas’s story begins at an inflection point, when the residents in a particular town are more interested in an actual crime of murder than in seeing yet another iteration of the traditional religious Morality play. To captivate and keep their audience, the actors—with Nicholas now one of them—create a play of real life about the town’s murder. Their drama evolves in a series of performances as they discover more details of the mystery, at last leading them to its resolution. A fascinating interplay of history, mystery, theater, and human nature! I love this book.

By Barry Unsworth,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Morality Play as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Notable Book

In medieval England, a runaway scholar-priest named Nicholas Barber has joined a traveling theater troupe as they make their way toward their liege lord’s castle. In need of money, they decide to perform at a village en route. When their traditional morality plays fail to garner them an audience, they begin to stage the “the play of Thomas Wells”—their own depiction of the real-life drama unfolding within the village around the murder of a young boy. The villagers believe they have already identified the killer, and the troupe believes their play will be a…


Book cover of Light Thickens

R. J. Koreto Author Of Death at the Emerald

From my list on mysteries in the theatre world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in New York City, practically within walking distance of the Broadway theatre district. My first show was the original production of 1776. Everything grabbed my attention: Ian McKellan in Amadeus, Patrick Stewart in Macbeth, Richard Dreyfuss in Julius Caesar, and Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady. In high school, I was an eager, if not especially talented, member of the theatre club. I became curious about the whole theatre scene, and what could be a better place for a mystery, where actors, directors, and scene designers are already creating an alternate world.

R. J.'s book list on mysteries in the theatre world

R. J. Koreto Why did R. J. love this book?

Marsh was one of the great mystery novelists, but her great love was theatre, and in this book, they come together. Few mysteries delve so deeply into the details of the theatre world. In this case, the play is Macbeth, and the murders behind the scenes eerily echo the violent play itself. The scene and setting are so gripping that it's impossible to stop reading and the ending is both surprising and satisfying. 

By Ngaio Marsh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Light Thickens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bad news: This is the last in Ngaio Marsh's marvelous Inspector Alleyn" series. The good: It's one of her very best. The secret to Light Thickens' success may lie in its combination of some of Marsh's greatest passions, including her native New Zealand -in the person of, unusually, a Maori character - and the theater. Indeed, the plot centers on a production of...well, let's skirt disaster by calling it the Scottish play," a play that Dame Ngaio produced and directed several times. Among theater folk, the Scottish play is considered unlucky, so much so that tradition requires anyone who…


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