Stage manager Nicholas Bracewell, resourceful hero of this series set in Elizabethan England (The Trip to Jerusalem, etc.), now takes on a new and daunting set of problems for Lord Westfield's Men, his beloved acting company. Fiery leading man Lawrence Firethorn has once again targeted a young beauty for seduction--this time it's Matilda, newly wed to wealthy merchant and Lord Mayor Elect Walter Stanford, presently mourning the death of his nephew Michael, whose savagely beaten body was pulled from the Thames. Meanwhile, Nicholas's mistress is Anne Hendrik, a widow who competently runs her late husband's millinery workshop. Her young apprentice Hans Kippel has been the victim of an attack so violent it's left him without memory and subject to constant nightmares. Overriding all of this is the threat that the company may lose its London home, The Queen's Head Inn. Pompous brewer and Alderman Rowland Ashway wants to add it to his string of public houses, and he's backed by the present Lord Mayor, who's scheming mightily to retain his office. All these happenings, and many more, eventually form a pattern that the stalwart Nicholas can comprehend and overcome. As rich in background color, language and vivid characters as it is in plot structure, Marston has another winner here.