this was my introduction to the historical novels of barry unsworth and i really appreciate his idea of telling a story set in the past. he doesn't overwhelm the reader with his precious research; rather he provides in morality tale a whodunnit set in the middle ages. his style of historical writing is like a high-end manicure: the story is buffed and polished, and then painted with two or three coats of in the colours of the era, in the reflection of historical context in which he has chosen to set his story. that's not to say research isn't done -- it's just not overwhelming, and unsworth allows himself to speculate about how things might have been. short, sweet, intriguing little novel. i highly recommend it.
one proviso: i do not recommend discussing this book with somebody you brought home from the bar. they might ask you if it is a based on a true story (the doings of a band of travelling players who try to figure out the murder of a boy by creating a play based on the facts they are able to gather was likely to be well documented, right?) and you might just look at the cross-eyed, and tell them you'll call them a cab.
not that that ever happened to me, or anything. :P