Ralph Delchard, a former soldier in the era-defining Battle of Hastings, and Gervase Bret, an accomplished lawyer, continue to travel the length of England investigating irregularities exposed during the collection of information for the Domesday Book. The pair frequently find that where matters of property are concerned, there are often unpleasant and criminal consequences. The king's work is a dangerous business. When a young girl is found in a holly patch, dead from a snakebite, her premature death shocks the entire town of Canterbury on the day that Delchard and Bret arrive. But when astonishing truths come to light, the duo must look for a force more vicious than a mere reptile.