Once again Lord Westfield's Men (The Silent Woman, 1994, etc.), an acting company in Elizabethan England, faces a tide of woe. This time, their playwright Edmund Hoode has gone stale, and though the works they put on (at the Queen's Head Inn, their venue in London) still draw a crowd, Nicholas Bracewell, the company's ever-resourceful director, is worried. A new play handed him by stranger Simon Chaloner seems the answer to his prayers. It deals, vibrantly, with the real-life murder of Thomas Brinklow, a prominent Greenwich engineer-scientist. Brinklow's wife and her longtime lover were found guilty of hiring thugs Freshwell and Maggs to do the killing. Maggs eluded capture; the other three were hanged. Now the play, whose author Chaloner refuses to name, throws a different light on the crime and all but names the true killer--a man well known in the exalted social circles of the Queen's Palace in Greenwich. A meeting with Brinklow's still-grieving sister, Emilia, who's engaged to Chaloner, convinces Nicholas to go ahead. The immediate consequence to him is a vicious beating, and matters grow much grimmer--matters involving treacheries both large and small, murder, and treason--before the company emerges triumphant. The author's mastery of plot, atmosphere, and character is at its peak here: a powerhouse from start to finish.