In a wave of pomp, Henry VIII’s court welcomes the Imperial emperor, Charles V.
Anthony Blanke, the son of the king’s late ‘black trumpet’, John Blanke, is called to Hampton Court by his former employer, Cardinal Wolsey. The cardinal is preparing a gift for King Henry: a masque of King Arthur and the Black Knight. Anthony is to take centre stage.
The festive mood, however, quickly sours.
Wolsey’s historian, charged with proving the king’s descent from King Arthur, is found murdered, his body posed in a gruesome tableau. A reluctant Anthony is charged with investigating the affair. His mission takes him on the path trod by the historian, through ancient monastic libraries and the back streets of London.
On a journey that takes him from Hampton Court to Windsor and Winchester, and which sees him lock horns with secretive monks, historian Polydore Vergil, and a new face at court, Anne Boleyn, he must discover the murderer, secure the great masque, and avoid King Henry’s wrath.
Henry VIII readies England for war with France. The King’s chief minister, Cardinal Wolsey, prepares to open Parliament at Blackfriars. The eyes of the country turn towards London. But all is not well in Wolsey’s household. A visiting critic of the Cardinal is found brutally slain whilst awaiting an audience at Richmond Palace. He will not be the last to die.
Anthony Blanke, trumpeter and groom, is once again called upon to unmask a murderer. Joining forces with Sir Thomas More, he is forced to confront the unpopularity of his master’s rule. As the bodies of the Cardinal’s enemies mount up around him, Anthony finds himself under suspicion. Journeying through the opulence of More’s home, the magnificence of Wolsey’s York Place, and the dank dungeons of London’s gaols, he must discover whether the murderer of the Cardinal’s critics is friend or foe.
With time running out before Parliament sits, Anthony must clear his name and catch the killer before the King’s justice falls blindly upon him.