Will Shakespeare and the Chamberlain’s Men are desperate. Locked in a legal dispute with Giles Allen their landlord, they have been homeless for more than a year. Forbidden to use The Theatre and forced to share stages with their rivals, they are going bankrupt in spite of their popularity at court.
As the New Year and yet another cripplingly expensive court appearance looms, they secretly dismantle their playhouse – and plan to transport it to the South Bank.
But as the stage comes down, disaster strikes – there is a body beneath it. A frozen corpse with a look of utter horror on its face.
They summon Tom Musgrave, Master of Logic, hoping that he will be able to solve the mysterious death.
But even as Tom goes to work, their attempt to cart the dismantled theatre across the frozen Thames almost costs Shakespeare his life – and reveals yet another corpse. Both carry coded messages which refer to an ancient, rarely-performed old play called Hamlet.
Set against a meticulously researched background, Tonkin’s fifth Musgrave murder mystery explores the fatal outcomes of the political tangles of the time, reaching from war-torn Ireland, secretive estates in the English midlands and the great University spy-factories of Oxford and Cambridge to the deadly snake-pit which is Elizabeth’s court in London at the dawn of 1599.