In 1066, William the Bastard, a Norman from France, defeated the English army at the Battle of Hastings. Within twenty years, all rebellion had been ruthlessly crushed, but English hatred still simmered. Now, in 1141, the Empress Matilda and King Stephen contend for the crown, and violence and corruption continually erupt in the uneasy and vulnerable land.

Dame Averilla, Infirmaress of the Benedictine abbey at Shaftesbury, is sorely troubled: King Alfred’s Laece Book, a precious collection of herbal and medicinal lore, has gone missing. So has the eccentric Dame Agnes—presumed by many to be possessed. Dame Averilla suspects a connection between the losses and the town’s wise woman, Galiena, rumored to be a witch. But efforts to find the herbal and the missing woman are hampered not only by Dame Joan, the discipline-obsessed sub-prioress, but by an ongoing power struggle between the nuns of Anglo-Saxon heritage and the daughters of the new Norman elite.

Evoking all the fascinating color and customs of medieval England, this twelfth-century detective story will delight mystery and history fans alike.