In seventeenth-century England, the setting of this novel, the riotuos politics of the Reformation made witchcraft no Halloween fantasy, but a thriving trade conducted by individuals highly skilled in murder. Although ignorant and superstitious folk attributed their evil powers to magic, it was primarily with poison that these real-life witches disposed of their enemies. A veritalbe hotbed of intrigue was rural Lancashire when orphaned Margery Whitaker came to make her home with a distant cousin, Roger Nowell. Roger was a King's Justice for the County, charged with maintaining law and order among Puritans, Papists, and accused witches alike, and Margery became his clerk, learning much of the sinsiter happenings in the region. Backed by a good Calvinist education and no less aided by her wit and beauty, she made many friends and was soon a familiar figure galloping through Pendle Forest in her bright orange riding habit. On her rides, she found two suitors: handsome Miles Nutter of Rough Lee, and the dashing Francis Hilliard, who was in the service of the Earl of Derby. And once in the mist-shrouded forest she discovered a hidden but well-tended bed of belladonna which could have caused the curious symptoms which preceeded a sudden series of similar deaths. Outraged by the Candlemas desecration of graves in the cemetery at Newchurch, the residents of Pendle raised a hue and cry against all suspected witches. And Roger and Margery faced danger from all sides as they sought to unmask the satanic plotter who had introduced murder into Pendle Forest.