As the autumn storms of 1271 ravage the East Anglian coast, Crowner Ralf finds the corpse of a brutally murdered soldier in the woods near Tyndal Priory. The dagger in the man's chest is engraved with a strange, cursive design, and the body is wrapped in a crusader's cloak. Was this the act of a member of the Assassin sect, or was the weapon meant to mislead? Ralf's decision to take the corpse to the priory for advice may be reasonable, but he is soon caught up in a maelstrom of conflict, both personal and political. The priory is deeply divided over whether to purchase a relic-a decision that endangers both Prioress Eleanor's leadership and the future of the hospital. Brother Thomas becomes a suspect in the murder, and Ralf must choose between loyalty to a friend and the demands of his brother, the sheriff. Meanwhile, the murderer watches and waits.