In Tudor England, in the year 1530, Henry VIII’s desire to marry Anne Boleyn is frustrated by the Pope’s unwillingness to grant him a divorce from his first Queen. The church is still the strongest power in the land, and the wealthiest. In Norfolk, the town of Castleacre, ancestral home of the Ackland family, is dependent not on them but upon the great Cluniac Priory that overshadows it.
When Will Ackland, younger son of an impoverished gentleman, returns home after years abroad he finds his evil-tempered brother Gilbert cursing the Prior’s new bailiff for his exactions. Then a corpse is discovered, not only stabbed but mutilated beyond recognition. Is it the Prior’s bailiff? If so, Gilbert is the chief suspect and the townspeople, who enjoy a hanging, will not be sorry to see him dangling from the gibbet.
But Will discovered that the bailiff had other enemies, some of them in unexpected places. He discovered, too, that frustrated desire can be as destructive in Castleacre as at Court. With the help of his irreverent servant, Ned Pye, he begins to unravel a tangle of concealed passion that leaves more than one man dead.