This is a gripping murder mystery set in 1655 against the background of the crumbling government of Oliver Cromwell - a regime beset by power hungry politicians, vengeful Royalists and dissident army officers plotting to kill their leader. Cromwell is obsessed by the murder of an obscure Somerset squire and sends Luke Tremayne to investigate. On arrival in the county Luke discovers that the squire's family and community are deeply divided, with fire and flood the weapons of village conflict. These divisions reveal a multitude of suspects - feuding relatives; corrupt politicians, a secret Royalist society, clandestine militias, Spanish agents, religious fanatics and wanton witches. An unexpected romantic interest and the machinations of the secret society complicate his investigation. He confronts the intrigues of the gentry and aristocracy and the bawdiness, suspicion, superstition and violence of village life. A popular religious fanatic preaching sexual freedom and political murder increases local tension. Further murders and revealing confessions force Luke to focus on other issues which inadvertently lead to more sordid revelations, and a brutal massacre. A mysterious stranger emerges as the prime suspect for anti-government activity, and as the murderer. Luke's friends are killed and he begins to doubt the veracity of others. Eventually through the help of local villagers he obtains the proof he needs and confronts the killer who is not easily brought to justice. In a surprising final twist Luke's world is turned upside down.