Robin Fernandez--whose parents are Portuguese Jews, refugees from the Inquisition--is not only acquainted with the principal figures in an alleged plot to poison Queen Elizabeth, but appears briefly on Shakespeare's stage. Though Jews were feared, hated, and outlawed in Elizabethan England, Lopez had been the Queen's physician for 40 years. On her behalf, but without her knowledge, he was also a counterspy, according to Melnikoff; once accused, public feeling made it impossible for the Queen to pardon Lopez--though, in a scene with Robin's sister, she implies that she would have liked to do so. As intimates of Lopez, the Fernandez family has secretly practiced their religion with him; the three children happen on several crucial events in the course of his tragic downfall, and their family flees to Bristol to escape the aftermath of virulent prejudice. Historical fiction of the old school, with the story contrived as a vehicle for information. Here, the information is authentic--copious detail regarding Shakespeare's theater, the court, religious observance, etc., as well as events--and the narrative is competently written. But rich as it is, the detail is mostly on the surface: the same crowd cheers a bear-baiting or hanging, yet falls silent at the power of Shakespeare's words; Melnikoff is content merely to point out the paradox. Good of its kind.