Third and best of this absorbing series, which chronicles the trials and triumphs of the Elizabethan Age acting company called Lord Westfield's Men (The Merry Devils, etc.) Trials there are aplenty as plague devastates London, the company's home, forcing the troupe to take to the road, with wagons and on foot, for one-night stands in far-off towns. Left behind, buried in a mass grave, is gifted actor Gabriel Hawkes. Brilliant, unflappable stage-manager Nicholas Bracewell isn't convinced, though, that plague caused Gabriel's death. He suspects foul play--possibly by Christopher Millfield, loser to Gabriel for a place in the company. But all this retreats to the background as the troupe, making its backbreaking way from town to town, finds that Banbury's Men, their archrivals, have been ahead of them, performing--unkindest cut of all--the carefully guarded, precious scripts of the Westfield company. There's treachery lurking everywhere, it seems--some of it directed at the Queen herself--as the bedraggled group reaches York, its Final destination, with two tag-along passengers--Oliver Quilley, a painter of miniature portraits; and lush, possessed Eleanor Budden, who hears the voice of God and sees salvation in Nicholas's Christlike figure. In York at last is triumph as Bracewell, challenged as never before, overcomes obstacles and finds solutions in a robust, fast-moving story, full of tense encounters, vivid characters, lively dialogue, and sharply drawn historical detail. Splendid work.