The sequestered peace of the Canterbury Cathedral community is shattered by the arrival of a poison pen letter. Reluctantly dragged from his administrative duties to investigate the allegations of gross sexual misconduct between a recently widowed parson and his female assistant, senior Church official Richard Harrison accidentally stumbles upon the horrific scene of a double killing. In doing so, he is set on a lonely, tortuous path to discover the identity of the anonymous letter-writer whose malicious libels apparently precipitated the tragic deaths.
Faced with a seemingly motiveless malignancy, Harrison follows a maze of leads in which the proposed sale of a 200 year old charity cottage and the short, violent life of Christopher Marlowe, the sixteenth century poet and playwright, appear to twine about the bizarre happenings in a country parish, leading finally to that midnight hour when past misdeeds have to be paid for, and when, in the words of Doctor Faustus, "the clock will strike and the devil will come . . ."