When Nicholas Peverell is urgently summoned to court by a messenger from King Henry VIII, he suspects that the King will want him to investigate a crime; for Nicholas, lord of the Manor of Dean Peverell in Sussex, has done so before. Reluctant to leave home though he is, he will at least see his beloved Jane Warrener, now a lady in waiting to Queen Jane, once more. But the crime, the murder of a wool merchant in the back streets of Portsmouth, hardly seems to warrant such attention - after all, Portsmouth has its own sheriff to deal with such matters. Could there be more to this than meets the eye? Nicholas starts to delve into the death only to find that the dead merchant's box of papers is stolen from the inn where Nicholas is lodging, which confirms his suspicions that this is no ordinary murder. He has also been instructed to report on the condition of the coastal defences at Porchester castle; his stay there becomes awkward after the governor's predatory wife attempts to seduce him. Then disaster strikes - Nicholas is suddenly arrested on a charge of treason and taken to London to be imprisoned in the Tower. For reasons beyond his understanding, the hunter has become the hunted...