It is 1195, and when a wealthy mill-owner falls dead across his horse, Sir John de Wolfe, the county coroner, declines to hold an inquest. The man was considerably overweight, had been complaining of chest pains, and showed no signs of injury. A clear-cut case of death from natural causes. But events take a sinister turn when a straw doll is discovered hidden beneath the man's saddlebag, a thin metal spike piercing its heart. Convinced that her husband's death was caused by an evil spell, the victim's strident widow begins a campaign against witchcraft and the so-called ?cunning women? who practice it. Soon Exeter is in turmoil, a hysterical mob is on the loose, and several local women are in danger. Still, the coroner declines to get involved-until his own mistress falls under suspicion. Can Crowner John discover the real cause of the merchant's death, unearth the culprit, and save his beloved Nesta from the hangman's noose?