Christmas, 1141 AD. A priest arrives from London to fill the vacant living of Holy Cross (the Foregate) - a man of presence, scholarship and discipline, but one who lacks the common touch. When he is found drowned in the mill-pond, suspicion is cast in many directions, not least towards a young man who came in the priest's train. Sent to work in Brother Cadfael's garden, he has attracted the friendship of a beautiful and formidable girl. To Brother Cadfael, once worldly, now dedicated, if gently cynical, is left the familiar task of sorting the complicated strands which define guilt and innocence.