Alyson Weaver, five times wife and a now a widow of Bath, is back in her birth city of Bath fighting for her life in a sultry July, 1386. If she and legal advocate Solomon cannot answer devious Prior Herbert’s witchcraft charges, she will be burned to death for heresy and murder. Townsfolk turn against her, including the powerful and venomous Mary Tucker and Alyson’s daughter Margery. Peter’s paramour Isabel and bastard son Lawrence are hoping to seize her property, as are Peter’s grasping kindred. Prior Herbert hates her and Bath coroner Thomas Newby is out for revenge for her championing of those he abuses. Alyson herself had reasons to want Peter dead and Solomon, a church-trained lawyer full of clerical prejudice against women, finds it difficult to like or believe her. Nor can the reader be sure of her innocence. Her friend Felise is seemingly made dangerously ill by one of Alyson’s potions. Margery will speak at the inquest about her father, Peter, testimony which will harm Alyson.
The inquisition begins at Prior Herbert’s sumptuous local manor, where Alyson is attended by her servants, advocate Solomon, and the slippery Pardoner Christopher from An Older Evil. She defends herself stoutly and Solomon is impressive but her steward Gervase is revealed to be a heretic. Gervase is threatened with torture and Alyson and her party have to fight their way off the manor. Then, in a chance discovery by her page, Oliver, Alyson realises that Prior Herbert was right: Peter, her amoral husband, had made enemies all his life and was murdered by poison.
Through the streets and taverns of Bath, Alyson and Solomon have to find out who poisoned little-mourned Peter to save her from the stake and before the murderer gets nervous of her probing and strikes again.