England, Summer 1814
The war is over, Napoleon is in exile on Elba, and Sharpe returns
to England. He accepts a posting to Scarsdale, Yorkshire,
the town where he grew up, to head the private militia
raised by Sir Willoughby Parfitt, a self-made man. He
is to protect Parfitt's mills from a 'rebellious' population. At
the centre of the trouble is a man called Matt Truman,
who Sharpe grew up with.
In London, Jane is finding life as a mistress difficult. She
is shunned by society, including Lady Anne Carmoynes (once
a mistress herself). In Yorkshire, Sharpe and Harper
are met by the local yeomanry and their commander, Capt. Wickham. On
their way to Parfitt's home, Sharpe and Harper realise they
are being followed. Sharpe shoots one pursuer and corners the
other whom he recognises as Matt Truman.
Parfitt blames Truman for the local unrest. At dinner,
that evening, another mill owner, Sir Percy Stanwyck, is present. Stanwyck
is soon to take delivery of a steam engine, something that
will give Parfitt competition. Stanwyck has heard of
Sharpe from his son, who died shortly after Talavera. Also
in Scarsdale is Dan Hagman, out of the army and looking for
work. He joins Truman. Rossendale and Jane are
also there to view a property that Rossendale has inherited.
of Sharpe's job is to break up illegal meetings. When they are informed
of one, Sharpe tells Wickham to arrest Truman without loss of life. Wickham
disobeys, Truman escapes, but there is a massacre. Sharpe and Harper are
appalled, even Hagman turns away from them. Later Sharpe believes there
is a plot to put Stanwyck out of business and he and Harper thwart it. After
an unpleasant meeting with Jane, Harper returns to Ireland
but where can Sharpe find justice?