1549: Two years after the death of Henry VIII, England is sliding into chaos . .
The nominal king, Edward VI, is eleven years old. His uncle Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, rules as Protector. The extirpation of the old religion by radical Protestants is stirring discontent among the populace while the Protector’s prolonged war with Scotland is proving a disastrous failure and threatens to involve France. Worst of all, the economy is in collapse, inflation rages and rebellion is stirring among the peasantry. Since the old King’s death, Matthew Shardlake has been working as a lawyer in the service of Henry’s younger daughter, the Lady Elizabeth.