It's the summer of 1604 and the Spanish are in London. Many years after the ill-fated Armada, they are negotiating a peace treaty with the English. Nick Revill's acting company is given a ceremonial role at the celebrations. But not everybody welcomes this outbreak of peace. In the shifting world of the court there are factions. In the Tower of London sits that implacable enemy of the Spanish, Sir Walter Raleigh, and he has friends on the outside who may try to sabotage the negotiations. Nick, meanwhile, is trying to get on with his playing. Invited by Shakespeare's rival, Ben Jonson, to take part in a masque at Somerset House where the Spanish are lodged, Nick is caught up in a conspiracy. During a rehearsal the courtier Sir Philip Blake dies an apparently accidental death when he tumbles from a 'Deus ex machina' chair which is lowering him to the stage. But this is only the first of a series of suspicious deaths, and Nick must look for the murderer among those around him. And Nick has other distractions besides. There is his growing attraction to his landlady, the widowed Ursula Buckle. And then there is that new French girl at the Mitre brothel...