A PLAY OF ISAAC
In 1434, Joliffe and his band of players are performing in Oxford. When a young man named Lewis wants to take them home, they end up guests of wealthy businessman Master Penteney. Lewis and his brother are Penteney's wards.
When not performing, rehearsing or re-working plays, Joliffe is a curious and constant observer of everyone, and more than willing to eavesdrop on conversations. When a stranger's body is found murdered nearby, Joliffe realizes he'd seen him arguing with Penteney the day before.
The players worry they'll be blamed, so Joliffe tries to learn all he can about the dead man and about their host and his family, He's already overheard that Penteney knows someone in the troupe.
Joliffe, who first appeared in Frazer's long-running medieval series featuring Dame Frevisse, now has his own mystery series. Life is not easy for the players. They're always on the road, never sure of an income, yet they're content, and they're warm and pleasing characters. Frazer is an expert in medieval times, and this new series will be welcomed by her many fans. (Aug., 320 pp., $6.50)