His exiled mentor Roger Bacon has asked Oxford Regent Master William Falconer to find an unnamed local alchemist, but he's given Falconer only the most cryptic of clues to the man's identity. By the time Falconer finds the alchemist, he's already been rounded up with 20 other suspected thieves by King Henry II and his venal, obsequious courtier, Thomas de Cantilupe. While waiting for a Christmastide Lord of Misrule to release the unjustly jailed suspect, Falconer can turn his attention to the murder of troubadour Stefano de Askeles--whose strolling troupe of jongleurs hates him with half a dozen motives for murder--and to the fortuitous unearthing of a saint's relics in answer to a greedy Oxford priest's prayers. Lots of subplots and masked figures obscure the rich central metaphor provided by the medieval mystery plays in Falconer's third outing (Falconer's Judgement, 1996, etc.).