A cold and remote castle is the scene for a series of unexplained deaths.
Baron Herbert returned from the crusades only to withdraw from his family, leaving his wife desperate for answers and his sons dying like flies. The Baron begs his friend Sir Hugh of Wynethorpe to come to the castle with a priest and a physician. Hugh makes the dangerous winter trip with his sister Prioress Eleanor, her healer Sister Anne, Brother Thomas and Master Gamel. They arrive just in time to see Herbert’s third son leap to his death. His first son died from a fever while Herbert was in Outremer, his second in a strange drowning accident. Now left to him are two children: his fourth son, who is hiding in the chapel in abject fear, and his fifth son, a clever mischief-maker. It is no wonder Herbert relies on his nephew Sir Leonel, a charismatic soldier who shared his adventures, to handle his affairs. When the Baron finally agrees to see them they learn he may be suffering from leprosy, the reason he has been avoiding his family. There is tension in the priory party as Eleanor battles lustful feelings for Leonel, Anne is attracted to Gamel and Hugh seems to hate Brother Thomas.
Royal’s 13th-century mysteries (Valley of Dry Bones, 2010, etc.) are always full of historical detail but, as in this case, often telegraph the evildoer early in the story.