In 1360, the Great Bridge over the River Cam is close to collapse. To repair it will cost the town and the University dear, especially if its rotten wood is replaced by more durable stone. As arguments rage over raising the money other, equally heated, differences are coming to the boil over the election of a new Chancellor. While the majority support Brother Michael for the post, at least one of his opponents aims to seize it by fair means or foul. Then the discovery of a body under the bridge and the disappearance of two scholars throws a more sinister shadow over both disputes.
Matthew Bartholomew, the University's Corpse Examiner, already has his hands full: due to marry in under a fortnight, he is determined to conclude his teaching duties and deal with an outbreak of the summer flux before relinquishing his official duties. With more deaths, an 'accident' at the bridge and an increasing stench of corruption over the financing of the bridge's repairs, he realises he owes more to his soon-to-be former colleagues than to his future life as a secular doctor.
But will there be enough time for him to unveil the identities of those who seek to undermine both the town and the University, or will he prove powerless to protect those he loves from death or disgrace or worse?