Oakham, near Bruton, is a tiny village by a big river without a bridge. When a man is swept away by the river in the early hours of Shrove Saturday, an explanation has to be found. Was it murder, or suicide, or an accident? The whole story is relayed by the village priest, John Reve, who in his role as confessor is privy to a lot of information that others have not. But will he be able to explain what happened to the victim, Tom Newman, the wealthiest, most capable and industrious man in the village? And what will happen if he can't?