The big social event of 1321 in England’s West Country is the wedding of Sir Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the King’s Peace, to Lady Jeanne. Baldwin (Belladonna at Belstone, p. 340) is preparing for the big event, with the help of his old friend Bailiff Simon Puttock when news arrives from Dartmoor of the death of Roger, the prosperous squire of nearby Throwleigh. At the funeral, Baldwin and Simon meet Roger’s impoverished brother Thomas, heir to the estate. Also in attendance, together with his bodyguard Godfrey, is one James van Relenghes, a handsome Fleming who is paying assiduous attention to the widow. But Baldwin is more troubled by the venomous look he catches her directing at her five-year old son Herbert. Only days later Baldwin gets news of Herbert’s death, supposedly in an accident on the nearby moors. When Baldwin and Simon return to Throwleigh for the second funeral, Baldwin is determined to ferret out the true circumstances of the boy’s death. Covering, in excruciating detail, the whereabouts of everyone on the moor that day—including the manor house domestics Anney and Petronilla, the troubled priest Stephen, and Herbert’s playmates Jordan and Alan—Baldwin turns up some forbidden relationships and eventually a surprising killer.
An inventive plot, memorable characters, steadily absorbing period background.