The brutal murder of a Baron in the provinces punctuates the bitter rivalry between two royal houses. While this kind of small-scale conflict isn't uncommon amongst the male-driven rural estates, the fact that one of the Lords is an Islander (Black) while the other is a Continental (White) adds a racial dimension which concerns the Queen and the Royal Congress of Ladies who represent these houses in the Capital City.
Intendant Jacob Guimard is dispatched to the countryside to investigate the Baron's murder. As an officer of the Judiciary, one of the few positions of power still available to men in the Sanctum, he is sworn to celibacy and well-versed in the forensic arts, literally. Basing all their criminal and martial training in the humanities, the Judiciary actually trains its officers to analyze crime scenes like paintings and to read people like books.
Even after Guimard's arrival the death toll continues to rise. Just as disturbingly, his young partner, Adjutant Eli Brook, begins a perilous fall into a forbidden romance with a young Lady-in-training. Matters spin out of control and Guimard is greatly troubled to learn that his assignment to the case may have been no accident. As he uncovers more and more disturbing details, he also learns what a vital role he himself plays in this recent turmoil and how little in this rural province is what it appears to be....