Berkley, August 2004, 6.50, 320 pp.
Thanks to Dame Frevisse, (see the SERVANT'S TALE) Joliffe and his fellow thespians (Basses, his daughter Rose, her son Piers and their friend Ellis) ply their trade in England of 1434 though they have no patron. This wandering troupe lives to act no matter the hardship. They are in Oxford performing an inn and to act in a play for the Corpus Christi festival. Lewis, an Eden-child (a person who has Down's syndrome) is so excited with their role-playing that he invites them to be his guest at his home; his parents the Penteneys, enthusiastically endorse their son's invitation.
Master Penteney, a wealthy and powerful merchant, asks the performers to put on two plays in exchange for room and lodging. This is a sweet deal and the actors accept, happy to have rest from the road. They have the whole barn to themselves but when they wake up the next morning, they find the murdered body of a man outside their door. The victim had come to speak to Master Penteney, who sent him on his way. At the feast, many guests suffer from food poisoning and Lewis acts out of character with nothing soothing him. The troupe falls under suspicion so Joliffe, needing to save their reputation, investigates.
Fans of Roberta Gellis, Sharon York, or Ms. Frazier will be shocked by how terrible actors were treated in fifteenth century England. A PLAY OF ISAAC is a historical who-done-it.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner