In 1358 the fledging college of Michaelhouse in Cambridge is in need of extra funds. A legacy from the Archbishop of York of a parish close to that city promises a welcome source of income. However, there has been another claim to its ownership and it seems the only way to settle the dispute is for a deputation from Michaelhouse to travel north. Matthew Bartholomew is among the small party which arrives in the bustling city, where the increasing wealth of the merchants is unsettling the established order, and where a French invasion is an ever-present threat to its port. But soon he and his colleagues learn that several of the Archbishop's executors have died in unexplained circumstances and that the codicil naming Michaelhouse as a beneficiary cannot be found.