The Hangman's Hymn
The Carpenter's tale of mystery and murder as he goes on pilgrimage from London to Canterbury
Stumbling upon a roadside execution, Chaucer's pilgrims witness a hanging that leaves the carpenter in a dead faint. That evening, as the travellers rest in a priory, he narrates a Gloucester hangman's terrifying tale of supernatural murder ...
When Simon Cotterill, a carpenter, follows his sweetheart to Gloucester, he is beaten by her father's thugs. Homeless und with no family to help him, he accepts the only job he can find and joins the local hangman's crew, replacing a man who was himself sent to the gibbet.
But Simon feels rejected even by the desperate men he now works with, until he learns the secret of how a hanged man can walk away from his graves.
Meanwhile, from the forest paths around Gloucester, young women are disappearing. When a disfigured corps is found, the mayor suspects a coven of witches is preying on vulnerable souls, and arrests three hideous hags.
Afraid the town's prosperity could suffer from a reputation for witchcraft, he calls the hangmen and Gloucester's chief aldermen to a midnight trial that condemns the women. They are taken to the scene of their crimes, the Forest of Dean, to be hanged for three days.
But the unearthly sounds of the forest at night frighten even the hangmen, and a violent storm dives them to seek shelter, leaving the witches swinging from the gibbet tree. And the next morning their bodies are gone.
Back in Gloucester, the witches' dominus - the leader of their coven - wants revenge on every man involved in the secretive punishment of three witches.
One by one, they re found dead, and Simon is forced into hiding as he attempts to destroy the coven, and save his own life ...