Sir Robert Carey leaves the court of Scotland's King James VI in early January, 1593, on the hunt for Joachim Hochstetter, aka Jonathan Hepburn.
Carey, the Queen's Deputy Warden in Carlisle, is carrying a warrant for Hochstetter's arrest for plotting with the King of Spain and Scottish earls to assassinate James. Hochstetter, a skilled engineer, is a son of a family of Anabaptists from Augsburg and may have taken ship. Or he may have gone to ground at Vicar's Island, Derwentwater, where his widowed mother, Radegunda, rules the smelting business and her unruly brood. Is he a man driven by the religious politics of the period? Or is he just a stone killer?
Meanwhile, what is the fate of Land Sergeant of Gilsland Henry Dodd, Sir Robert's man but currently at potentially fatal odds with him thanks to a deadly clan feud with the Grahams; of Dodd's wife the redoubtable Janet who believes she's a childless widow and about to lose her family's land – even that of Dodd's remarkable horse, Whitesock?