In 1321, the King's favorite, Hugh Despenser, is using his position to steal land and wealth from the other lords. His rapacity has divided the nation, and civil war looms. In Tiverton, rape and murder have unsettled the town, which is preparing for the feast of St. Giles; Philip Dyne has confessed and claimed sanctuary in St. Peter's church. Sir Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the King's Peace, and Bailiff Simon Puttock, arrive at Lord Hugh de Courtenay's castle at Tiverton for the feast. When a messenger arrives calling for the coroner, Baldwin and Simon accompany him to view the body of Sir Gilbert of Carlisle, Despenser's ambassador to Lord Hugh. Not far off lies a second corpsethe decapitated figure of Dyne. When Baldwin and Simon are themselves viciously attacked, they know that a sinister force is at large, someone with a powerful motive to kill. But there are so many suspects.