It is 1807 and Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, newly returned to England, now wants to leave the army. One last job is offered to him. Go to Copenhagen, help the Honorable John Lavisser deliver a bribe and so stop a war. It seems very easy.
But nothing is easy in a Europe stirred by French ambitions. The Danes possess a battle fleet that could replace every warship the French lost at Trafalgar and Napoleon's forces are gathering to take it. The British have to stop them, while the Danes, caught between rival armies, insist on being neutral.
Sharpe was not sent to Copenhagen to dabble in high politics, but to employ the low skills he learned on the streets of London's slums. He is ordered to protect John Lavisser against the French agents who infest the Danish capital. It is a shadow war of spies and brutality in which Sharpe is a sacrificial pawn. But pawns can change the game and Sharpe, when he discovers a traitor in their midst, makes his own rules. He becomes a hunter inside a city besieged by British troops. A Danish army attempts to raise the siege, but is met by Sir Arthur Wellesley with a force of redcoats and riflemen.
Copenhagen is doomed. When the Danes refuse to surrender, the city is subjected to a merciless bombardment that will leave hundreds of men, women and children dead. In a night of horror, as a city burns, Sharpe must protect a woman, hunt his traitor and stay alive.