Christmas Day, Kent, 1796: on the frozen fields of Romney Marsh stands New Hall; silent, lifeless, deserted. In its grounds lies an unexpected Christmas offering: a corpse, frozen into the ice of a horse pond. It falls to the Reverend Hardcastle, justice of the peace in St. Mary in the Marsh, to investigate. But with the victim's identity unknown, no murder weapon, and no known motive, it seems like an impossible task. Working along with his trusted friend, Amelia Chaytor, and new arrival Captain Edward Austen, Hardcastle soon discovers there is more to the mystery than there first appeared. With the arrival of an American family torn apart by war and desperate to reclaim their ancestral home and a French spy returning to the scene of his crimes, ancient loyalties and new vengeance combine to make Hardcastle and Mrs. Chaytor's attempts to discover the secret of New Hall all the more dangerous.