When unexpected disaster strikes Lord Westfield's Men during a packed performance, Nicholas Bracewell, the theater company's stage manager and all around performer of miracles, must save the day once again. A melee caused by disguised men is brought under control, but before the troupe can lament their destroyed set Nick discovers a body in the stands with a knife sticking out of it's back. They soon realize they are out one theater and one clown: Barnaby Gill, always hilarious on the stage and hopelessly curmudgeonly off, has broken his leg.
With long months of repairs before them, Westfield's Men embark on a tour of the Kent countryside in order to salvage some of the down time. They hire a stand-in for Gill, one Gideon Mussett, a gifted comedian and an even more gifted drunk. It seems no clown is perfect; while Gill has never been a barrel of laughs when not in front of an audience, Musset simply doesn't seem to know when to quit being funny.
Their major wound bandaged, no matter how temporarily, Nick and the troupe are hoping to leave their troubles behind. But misfortune follows them at every turn, and the company finds that no matter what they do or where they go someone very sinister is just moments behind. It's up to Nick Bracewell to find out what's going on, and exactly how it ties in to their wayward comedian. Will the Vagabond Clown prophecy the end of Westfield's Men, and perhaps the demise of Nick himself? Longtime readers of mystery master Edward Marston will line up to find out in this suspenseful entry in a series that never disappoints.