St. Martin's, August 2004, 3.95, 288 pp.
In Elizabethan England the acting troupe of Westfield's Men is having their share of woes. Playwright Edmund Hoode has taken ill and it is up to his protégée Michael Grammaticus to finish the new play the actors are to perform. Michael is so grateful to his mentor for his support that he pays for the doctor and the special food he prescribes. A card player Alexander Marwood entices some of Westfield's Men into a game of cards with him. More times than not he is the winner, but there is no evidence that he is cheating but bookholder Nicholas Bracewell has his suspicions.
Someone steals their best costumes; nobody has a clue who is behind the thefts. Two young beggars who Nicholas befriended end up at Bridewell's workhouse where Dorothea is raped before she is released and her best friend Hywell is killed for his righteous attempt to hunt down the people who run the workhouse. Nicholas is determined to bring those responsible for the boy's death to justice as well as a couple of thieves who thought Westfield's Men were easy pickings.
Readers get a taste what it was like for actors who have the backing of a lord in Elizabethan England. Nicholas Bracewell is more heroic than usual as he tries to right many wrongs by bringing thieves and killers to justice. THE COUNTERFEIT CRANK is an exciting historical mystery and readers will be delighted to become reacquainted with characters they have come to regard as friends as it is always a treat to read about the endearing Westfield's Men.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner