1271. A long-dead body is discovered in a building being removed to make way for a college in Oxford.
Given his extensive experience in solving difficult puzzles (Falconer and the Face of God, 1997, etc.), Oxford University Regent Master William Falconer is more than happy to help his old friend, constable Peter Bullock, identify the long-immured corpse. In fact, he already knows the death must have occurred in 1250, when the building was under construction. With help from a colleague, Master Bonham, he persuades the bones, and indeed the missing head, to disclose a tale of murder. Falconer, who enjoys a strong relationship with the despised Jewish community, well remembers 1250 as the year he arrived in Oxford and proved that Jews accused of ritual murder were innocent. Now that King Henry is once more squeezing the Jews for money to pay a crusader’s ransom, the same charge is being leveled again. Twenty-one years ago, the original collector went missing along with a large sum of money. Now, even though (or because?) a mysterious Knight Templar has appeared on the scene, Bullock seems curiously uninterested in solving the case. So Falconer renews his relationship with beautiful Jewish widow Saphira Le Veske, who puts herself in serious danger in an attempt to solve it first.
This welcome return of the long-dormant Falconer series is a pleasantly simplified but intriguing look at historical Oxford, spiced with a dash of romance.