Summer, 1545. England is at war. Henry VIII's invasion of France has gone badly wrong, and a massive French fleet is preparing to sail across the Channel ...Meanwhile, Matthew Shardlake is given an intriguing legal case by an old servant of Queen Catherine Parr. Asked to investigate claims of 'monstrous wrongs' committed against his young ward, Hugh Curteys, by Sir Nicholas Hobbey, Shardlake and his assistant Barak journey to Portsmouth. There, Shardlake also intends to investigate the mysterious past of Ellen Fettiplace, a young woman incarcerated in the Bedlam. Once in Portsmouth, Shardlake and Barak find themselves in a city preparing for war. The mysteries surrounding the Hobbey family and the events that destroyed Ellen's family nineteen years before, involve Shardlake in reunions both with an old friend and an old enemy close to the throne. Soon events will converge on board one of the king's great warships gathered in Portsmouth harbour, waiting to sail out and confront the approaching French fleet...