Butchery outside a London brothel leaves Westfield's Men in disarray While England is brought low by rumours of Queen Elizabeth's declining health, celebrated theatre company Lord Westfield's Men suffer their own bitter blows. A vicious feud between players causes chaos; a rival company launches a new production; a mysterious beauty reduces their leading actor to a lovelorn wreck; and a brutal murder leaves the group of actors reeling. With matters so fraught, even a performing horse becomes a threat. Stage manager Nicholas Bracewell, accustomed to damage control, is the only man with the wit to keep the company afloat. As the Queen sinks towards death, Nicholas begins to discern the connections between the company's misfortunes and the larger shadow falling over England ...