A Play of Isaac

Written by Margaret Frazer Robert Hale

A 15th-century company of players come toOxford, where, as well as their planned performances at theCorpus Christi festival, they are invited to entertain the Penteney family. Then a murdered man is discovered by their lodgings, and as strangers they are the natural suspects. They have to prove their innocence. Led by Joliffe, whose own past is gradually revealed, their efforts to solve the murder involve discovering secrets affecting the leading player and the merchant Penteney, and are intertwined with the performances of the plays.

What keeps readers turning the pages? An intricate plot helps, but mainly, I believe, it is when readers feel for the characters, when they care about them. The players here are attractive, varied and interesting, gaining our sympathy and admiration. The Penteney family is rich, but has problems. The background of life in a wealthy merchant’s house is convincing, and the mechanics of staging plays entertainingly described. This is a satisfying plot and an enjoyable read.

Marina Oliver