In the second of the ‘Elizabethan Mysteries’ Ben’s company, Lord Bonner’s Men, are invited to play at the Rose Theatre and then to perform a new play in front of Elizabeth I on the 26th December. But things do not go according to plan when costumes are stolen, the theatre is nearly set alight and columns sawn through which would have meant a balcony collapsing when the theatre was full of people. A rival group, the Earl of Horsham’s Men, is suspected after a stabbing on stage and Ben and another apprentice vow to find out who is behind the attempted sabotage. A fast paced adventure then ensues.
This is a story completely comfortable in its setting, not attempting to be the great historical novel, but a really good adventure set within the world of the Elizabethan theatre. The details of the life of a boy apprentice, the somewhat uncertain future of the players seeking patrons to survive, and the seediness of the lower life of Elizabethan London are all part and parcel of the story. Ben is a likeable character and his sidekick Matt, once an enemy, convincingly becomes a friend. The rest of the players emerge as clearly defined characters too and the competition act honourably for the most part. This is a well written historical adventure which will take the reader back to the first story while looking forward to the next one, learning much about Elizabethan theatre while doing so. The cover however is not representative as the sword play in the story is not in armour but play-acting on the stage, and the title is misleading – there is no traitor just an aristocrat jockeying for power but these are small quibbles. There is a map to guide the reader back and forth across the River Thames.