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In the year 1357 Cambridge University is in a sorry state. Beautiful from a distance, in close-up it's dirty and pot-holed. Careful examination of its finances reveals holes there as well. The town's landlords are demanding huge rent increases for the student hostels, and the plague has left the colleges with scant resources. But for Matthew Bartholomew, Fellow of Michaelhouse College, there's another problem nearer to home: the arrival of a certain Richard Arderne, a healer with `magical' properties, who seems to be able to awaken the dead ...

But he can't banish death entirely. Not when it arrives in the form of murder. Is the murderer a rapacious landlord or in fact the `healer' with his magical feather?

Against a backdrop of rivalry between town and gown, of gambling dens and missing persons and of dissent between Franciscans and Dominicans, Matthew must find the viper in the University's midst. Before the whole of Cambridge descends into an unholy mess. Before Matthew himself is killed ...