1592. England and Spain are at war, yet an even greater threat lies closer to home. Robert Cecil, Elizabeth’s cold but deadly young statesman, summons intelligencer John Shakespeare. His mission: to infiltrate the dissolute world of the Earl of Essex, the brightest star in the Elizabethan firmament. Shakespeare soon discovers that not only is the Queen herself in danger, but that he and his family are also a target in a pitiless conspiracy of vengeance that washes blood over all who encounter it.