1603: Former ship's surgeon Gabriel Taverner is attempting to re-establish himself as a country physician in rural Devon. But it's not easy to gain the locals' trust, and a series of disturbing incidents, increasing in menace and intensity, convinces him that at least one person doe snot welcome his presence. Called out to examine a partially decomposed body found beside the river, Gabriel discovers he has a personal connection to the dead man. Teaming up with Coroner Theophilus Davey to find out how the man died, Gabriel uncovers the darker aspects of the lucrative silk trade which operates from nearby Plymouth. The more he finds out, the more frighteningly apparent it becomes that the people closed to him have been keeping dangerous secrets.