The village of Ledwardine has never been flooded in living memory, but as the river continues to rise with December rains, within days it will be an island. Electricity has been cut and the church is serving as a temporary mortuary for two people who drowned. Only one man feels safe: an aggressively atheist author who has been moved--for his own safety--into a secluded house just outside the village. Meanwhile, archaeologists--assisted by Merrily Watkins's teenage daughter, Jane--are at work unearthing an ancient row of standing stones that some people would prefer stay buried. The atheist's temporary home is close to the site, and his young wife is becoming conspicuously agitated. Is it the fear of discovery? With the flood water washing up Church Lane towards the vicarage and the shop running out of cigarettes, it looks to be a cold and complex Christmas for Merrily Watkins.