The discovery of a chest full of old documents sets mediocre middle-aged historian, James Appleby, off on a quest to find why and how members of an English religious sect suddenly disappeared in 1594. History, university politics and Appleby's complicated love life are mixed with dramatic action sequences in a book which is both entertaining and thoughtful.
When the landline rang it was so unexpected it made him jump. As it turned out later this was rather a mild reaction. If he had had the slightest notion of what lay in store as a result of his answering it he might have wrenched the antiquated handset from its socket, hurled it through the quaint little oriel window and watched with grim satisfaction as it splashed into the river. But having no such clairvoyant intimations, he took the conventional course of action and picked up.