A play written in 1154 in hope of winning greater glory for Oseney Priory brings disaster in its long, long wake.
Before The Play of Adam can be performed for the first time, one of the Oseney brothers is murdered while rehearsing the part of Abel, but the prior covers up his death. In 1199, two warring factions on their way to Wales arrive at Oseney, and the Brothers decide to stage the play as a distraction. One group consists of Prior Dunstan from Canterbury and his secretary, along with two knights who guard them. The other includes Gerald de Barri, bishop-elect of St. Davids, and two canons of his cathedral. The Archbishop of Canterbury has refused to issue the charters needed for de Barri to become bishop. Another death is written off as a seizure before both groups depart for Carmarthen, where their bitter enmity becomes a problem for the castle’s constable, Sir Symon Cole, and his pregnant wife, Gwenllian. Cole is concerned about a sudden rash of accidents on the building sites of the castle, which is being rebuilt in stone. Robert, sent from Oseney to help the Canterbury group, suggests that they stage the play, again as a distraction. Once more there is an unnatural death that Gwenllian must solve to save her husband’s position. In 1361, the townspeople of Ely fear that a demon has been set loose by a performance of the play, and murder strikes again. Over 200 years later, a bitter playwright tries to ruin William Shakespeare’s reputation by releasing a script purporting to be by the Bard of Avon that contains part of the cursed play. Actor Nick Revill confronts secret agents of the Privy Council as he works to prevent damage to Shakespeare. Finally, an academic group stages the play during WWII with unexpected results.
The eighth annual round robin co-authored by well-known historical mystery writers Susanna Gregory, Bernard Knight, Karen Maitland, Ian Morson and Philip Gooden. Like the others (Hill of Bones, 2011, etc.), it’s uneven but generally entertaining.