Witchfinder Jacob Crawley has the countryside around the Hampshire village of Fetworth held in a grip of terror, as rural superstition and fear flies in the face of emergent 17th century urban reason. Hooded, gagged and bound, beautiful Harriet Merridew lies in the church vault, substituted for the unfortunate Matilda Pennywise, whom Crawley is shortly to execute for witchcraft, whilst her bitter rival, Jane Handiwell, leader of a gang of nocturnal highwaywomen, revels in her plight and in the pending fate of Harriet's cousin Sarah, now sold by Jane to Roderick Grayling, son of the local Lord of the Manor to become just another statistic in his white slavery operation. Only Thomas Handiwell, Jane's innkeeper father and Harriet's would-be suitor, and a handful of troopers supposedly commanded by an inexperienced and convalescent young officer, stand between further murder and extortion and any chance of a return to sanity.

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