Sequel to Dark Fire. The hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake has been sent to York by Archbishop Cranmer to meet the Royal Progress, where Henry VIII is to accept formal surrender from those who had earlier rebelled. Shardlake is to hear petitions on the king’s behalf, but really he is there to ensure that a high-ranking conspirator is brought safely back to the Tower of London. He stumbles upon a cache of secret papers, which leads to a series of attempts upon his life.
Shardlake, once an ardent support of the reform of the Church of England, has grown disillusioned and cynical. His exposure to the king and the Court only increase his disillusionment. The king has become an unabashed tyrant and Shardlake grows sympathetic to the rebels.