It is only to entertain himself in the hospital that the impatient Inspector Morse opens the little book called Murder on the Oxford Canal. But so fascinating is the story it tells--of the notorious 1859 murder of Joanna Franks aboard the canal boat Barbara Bray--that not even Morse's attractive nurses can distract him from it. Was Joanna really raped and murdered by fellow passengers? Morse believes the men hanged for the crime were innocent. Now, in one of the most dazzling investigations of his career, Morse sets out to piece together the shattered past, hoping to expose the shocking truth about the Barbara Bray--and a beautiful wench who is journeying towards her death.