England, 1810. Young Parson Tobias Campion is excited to be starting at the small parish of Moreton St Jude's. But his first night in the village brings excitement of the wrong kind when he has to intervene in the attempted rape of housemaid Lizzie Woodman. Even in the normal course of events, village life is far from quiet, and soon Tobias has to deal with suspicious deaths.
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Tobias Campion, rector of Moreton St Jude, is delighted to welcome the widowed Lady Chase as his parishioner. Although charming and generous-spirited, she harbours a secret sorrow: her son, Hugo, is missing, presumed dead. Her late husband's nephew, Sir Marcus Bramhall, making a prolonged, unwelcome visit to Moreton Hall, speaks darkly of bringing a court case to declare him the heir.
A fork of lightning and a crash of thunder herald the completion of a heinous crime. In woodland belonging to the eccentric Lord Wychbold, a body has been crucified on a tree. On Easter Day, the Reverend Tobias Campion returns from morning service at St Luke's and discovers the corpse, already beginning to putrefy. A crown of thorns frames his face, bludgeoned beyond recognition, and a loincloth preserves what is left of his modesty.