It's 1647: a time of bitter civil wars in England. Wayland, the village blacksmith, returns from army service to find his wife, Rebecca, murdered, and his son traumatised and struck dumb. Wayland's overpowering desire for revenge is thwarted by the collapse of laws and a dearth of clues to her sadistic killer.
Thwarted, that is, until the villagers ask him to investigate a runaway horse. Whilst searching for its rider, he discovers instead the body of a young boy, cut with symbols in the same way as Rebecca's body had been. The clues abound and confuse with elements of witchcraft, religious hatred, and the enmities of civil war. Wayland sets out on a perilous journey to find the killer, taking with him his son Jonathan and Alun, a canny Welsh baker. But just as they find their first suspect, they are trapped in the brutal Siege of Colchester, facing ever more dangerous challenges.
Wayland, Alun and Jonathan must draw on all their strengths, devise new strategies and make agonising decisions, if they are to stay alive and find the real killer before he strikes again.