St. Martin's, August 2003, 24.95, 352 pp.
The Westfield's Men acting troupe consider themselves very lucky while in London to be based at The Queen's Head Inn. It has an enclosed yard that is perfect as an outdoor theatre and it even has balconies for the aristocrats and wealthy merchants that want to attend a play without mingling with the common folk. When a riot breaks out during a play they are giving, one of their star performers is injured and a man in the balcony is murdered. It is clear to all that someone wanted to use the riot as a diversion for the killing.
The proprietor of the Queen's Head throws out the actors forcing them to take to the road. They hire a substitute player temporarily until the injured actor is ready to perform again. However, every place they stop they are welcomed by villains who try to sabotage their performances. At one stopover, a player is killed and Nicholas Bracewell, the book holder and the glue that keeps the company together, realizes somebody is out to destroy the company and he intends to stop them.
Readers are privy to what happens behind the scenes in a traveling troupe's entourage. Westfield's Men are a diverse lot of actors who are at times act petty and argumentative but are at the same time loyal to one another and the troupe as a whole. They love to act and it shows in the risks they take but it is Nicholas Bracewell, a hired hand, who manages to rise above the ensemble to make Westfield's Men one of the best acting troupes in Elizabethan England.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner