The theaters of Elizabethan England can be a very dangerous environment. With dozens of troupes competing for the attentions of a fickle theater-going public, rival companies regularly resort to nefarious activities to thwart a competitor's success, tensions occasionally erupt into violence and, in some instances, the result is murder.
So it is no surprise that Westfield's Men, the most successful troupe in London and a prime target for jealousy and resentment, are plagued by a series of practical jokes. But when one of their actors is murdered, the humor turns distinctly sour. Appalling events continue: Lawrence Firethorn, actor-manager, is stalked by a mysterious lady; the sole copy of The Malevolent Comedy, the company's new play, is stolen; their leading apprentice is abducted; and there is an attempt on the life of Lord Westfield, their patron.
It's soon clear that someone more vicious than a practical jokester is trying to destroy the troupe. Nicholas Bracewell, the resourceful book holder, has an almighty struggle to save his beloved company from certain demise. Of course thwarting disaster is Nick's specialty, and Edward Marston's longtime readers will thoroughly enjoy this suspense-filled, raucous romp filled with the delightful backstage antics of mystery fiction's favorite ensemble cast.