Traitor! by John Pilkington

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Traitor! by John Pilkington

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Buy Traitor! by John Pilkington at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A young actor in Elizabethan times comes up against unknown enemies of his theatrical company in a pleasantly escalating thriller, which however could have gone further.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: April 2008
Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd
ISBN: 978-0746087114

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London, and the Shakespearean times. Indeed, that very playwright has proven too popular, and forced the band of players our lead character, Ben Button, works for – the Lord Bonner's Men – to disband from their playhouse and move to a new theatre, the Rose, on the south bank. Things still are not going their way, however – rivals have moved in next door, to the Swan, their valuable costumes (worth a year's wage) are going astray, and a particularly malevolent young rival seems to have it in for Ben and Co.

It soon becomes clear that someone's got it in for the company, and just when things were looking to be on the up. For sure, the play they're premiering sounds quite naff, but things should be happy in this merry band of players, and they're not. It's down to Ben therefore to quietly use his skills to work out who might be their new-found enemy.

The world of the Elizabethan theatre, and indeed London as a whole, is a well-defined one here, with everything relevant seeming realistic, and wearing its period detail and research very lightly. Beyond that there is a nice way with character – the way Ben starts the book really disliking his stage partner Matt, but finds their combination a good one to get through the mystery, is a pleasantly unspoken change in circumstances, that adds to the feel of this being part two of a series well worth exploring.

The crux of the book, however, is as a thriller, and this in a way is a bit of a let-down. Sure, the real baddy is never pinned down for a long time, and the very working out of who has done what to whom, and why, does allow for quite a lot of enjoyable, twisty working-out. But the whole comes out feeling too linear, if anything – and despite the plot opening out to cover all sorts of characters, events and locations, the scope of the plot is never fully realised. It remains a couple of red herrings, and cliff-hangers, shy of being as brilliant as it could have been.

Perhaps our author here was on a hiding to nothing anyway, with the assumed baddies being the Earl of Horsham's Company. The number of people here at the Bookbag with connections to that unassuming town is way out of proportion despite their never having met each other. Still, we can forgive John Pilkington it this once.

It is, however, a thriller for the eight-to-twelve year olds, and as such can survive without the cut and thrust of more mature reads, and I admit there is something very good indeed about the plotting, with things taking very unexpected turns – with again a fine realism – just forty pages from the end. The narrative provides for a good escalation of evil, and parallel to that a rise in the levels to which Ben and Matt have to go to find their way through the intrigue.

As a personal of theatrical bent I would hope the old playhouse and historical settings would appeal to the young thriller fan. A book that covers similar ground, but is much superior, even considering the merits of this volume, and perfect for a young reader just a couple of years further advanced, is Bearkeeper by Josh Lacey.

This however is still worth a recommendation, if not one quite so enthusiastic, and earns its four Bookbag stars well. (Although I am sure the twelve days of Christmas do not end on Boxing Day, but on the 6th Jan.)

We would like to thank Usborne for a review copy.

Buy Traitor! by John Pilkington at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Traitor! by John Pilkington at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Traitor! by John Pilkington at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Traitor! by John Pilkington at Amazon.com.

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