When an old friend and colleague passes away, an LSU English professor named Jack Claire travels to Swansea, Wales, to attend the funeral and is bequeathed a cache of handwritten manuscripts, the plays of William Shakespeare, along with a rare, leather-bound copy of the First Folio – the first collection of Shakespeare's plays. A problem arises, however, when he recognizes that the handwriting is NOT William Shakespeare's. He returns to Baton Rouge with and attempts to authenticate the documents, inadvertently alerting a ruthless collector who covets these priceless literary artifacts. The collector hires a relentless mercenary to steal the Shakespeare papers. Benedict resorts to violence when his surreptitious searches fail.
In California, Joseph Lawrence Conrad, a handsome young college instructor, receives mysterious handwritten original plays of Shakespeare. Not an Elizabethan scholar, Joe Conrad seeks the help of a colleague named Jonathan “Smitty” Smythe, a literary Sherlock Holmes to Joe's Watson. At once, Smitty recognizes the potential of the manuscripts and enlists the aid of Silvia Williamson, a brilliant and beautiful African-American scholar from Berkeley. As these three amateur sleuths labor to authenticate the manuscripts and determine the true author of Shakespeare's plays, they learn someone is after the priceless papers – and he's leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Eventually, everyone connected to the Shakespeare papers is in danger, including Joe's wife and children.
Plots intersect as the scholars discover evidence (based on thorough research) pointing to the most probable author(s) of Shakespeare's works, while the ruthless collector grows closer to the prize. Along the way, Joe and the others are assisted by police detective Ryan Dunn, who saved Joe and his family years earlier, FBI Agent Terry Lott, who helps uncover the identity of the mercenary, and Bill Morgan, an attorney who assists in protecting the Shakespeare papers and the family.
This fast-paced journey of discovery takes these appealing characters from Louisiana to California, to Washington, DC, Oxford, England, Swansea, Wales, and back to London where they discover a surprising link to today's Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family, which ultimately leads Joe and Smitty to Stratford-upon-Avon, where they come face to face with a surprising and lethal truth.