Ralph Delchard, a former soldier in the notable Battle of Hastings, and Gervase Bret, an exceptional lawyer, continue to travel the length of England inspecting anomalies uncovered during the collection of information for the Domesday Book, the great survey of the country commissioned by William the Conqueror. The pair frequently find that where matters of property are concerned, there are often distasteful and unlawful consequences. The king's work is a dangerous business.
In the forest of Woodstock an excited crowd waits for the first horse to pass the post, but the winning steed has an empty saddle, its rider lying in a copse with a knife in his back. While guests of the Sheriff of Oxfordshire, Delchard and Bret inevitably find their attention drawn to the tragedy and uncover a startling truth.