Written by John Pilkington
Review by Nancy Henshaw

Elizabethan London. In this second Elizabethan Mysteries adventure, prentice actor Ben Button is thrilled when Lord Bonner’s Players are commanded to perform a new play in front of the queen. He hopes that his fellow prentice, Matthew Fields, will now stop bugging him. The company moves temporarily to the Rose Theatre in Southwark and begins rehearsing. Nearby is the Swan Theatre where their rivals, Lord Horsham’s men, work—and they are not very welcoming. Nor is Alderman Gilbert, who denounces the theatre as an instrument of the devil: he will close the Rose if he can.

When an expensive costume goes missing and a mysterious fire breaks out one night, the company begins to wonder if Lord Horsham’s men are behind it. One of them, Edward Ratcliff—the Rat—has taken a particular dislike to Ben, and he is known to be dangerous.

Things go from bad to worse when their principal actor, Hugh Cotton, is badly wounded, and the Rat and his cronies beat up Ben and Matt. If their play is to be ready for the royal performance, Ben and Matt must forget their animosity and work together to unmask whoever is behind the attacks on the company—and soon.

This fast-paced story would make a useful introduction to both Elizabethan London and its theatre. The author is good at getting his readers inside the theatre world: all actors are expected to be adaptable. For example, Ben, who plays female parts, also has lessons in sword-fighting from an Italian fencing master. The book illuminates the city’s dangerous underbelly, too. Southwark is full of thieves and cut-purses, and the warren-like ruins of the old Whitefriars monastery is now an underworld rookery.

It is obviously aimed at boys but girls should enjoy it, too. 10 plus.


I think Traitor is a well-written book but it could have explained the characters’ dilemmas in greater depth, so that the problems they had would have been more exciting. It had a good story structure and I enjoyed this book more than the first of the series, which I found too complex. It is a very exciting story with plenty of surprises. John Pilkington is a very good writer and I very much hope that he will write another book in the series Elizabethan Mysteries. My favourite character is Matt because I like his cheeky style, which reminds me of myself. So I think Traitor is an excellent book.