Arnold Landon, the shy loner who works for the Northumberland Planning Office, often seems to borrow trouble in the pursuit of his chief interest in life--the history of the district's ancient stone and wood structures (Most Cunning Workmen). Now it happens again as he tries to assist the rather arrogant Professor Brandling with his research into medieval monastaries and satanic cults--one of which, he intimates to Landon, is still alive in the area, possibly at the abandoned churchyard in Kentside. The professor's eager young protÃ‰gÃ‰, Cy Robinson, is also researching the period, perhaps hoping to emulate the success of his mentor, whose treatise The Scribe of Odilo had an unexpected public appeal and assured the academic prestige of its author. Landon meanwhile is in the middle of a bitter confrontation between gypsies camping legally on the village common and local farmers trying to run them out of town. There's another planning struggle with a scary religious sect called the vicars of Jehovah. Then Landon feels threatened from all sides after the body of an elderly gypsy is found in the disused churchyard, and the gypsy-versus-farmer standoff turns violent with Cy Robinson taken hostage, later to be found stabbed to death. All this evokes bad vibes in our hero--a constant succession of tingling fingertips, prickling skin, and hair-raising sensations. The reader, however, is unlikely to share his sense of menace in this unwieldly hodgepodge overloaded with medieval lore, dull conversation, stodgy or brutish characters, and unconvincing murderer. For specialized tastes only.