The Western Wind is set in 1491, in the kind of peripheral, unspectacular place in which, we book lovers know, the best stories are often found. Oakham (not the one in Rutland, it seems) is a slumbering English village cut off from neighbouring areas by a wide river. A couple of wealthy people live there, as do a lot of unambitious folk who have never left home and have no wish to do so. At the centre of village life is John Reve, a benign, reserved priest who hears confession and therefore knows the gossip, scandals and quiet grudges of Oakham better than anyone else.
It is a troubling time for the village. Tom Newman, the richest resident, has been swept away by the tumultuous river. The novel begins when another local, Herry Carter, claims to have seen Newman’s corpse, though when he and Reve go to look, the body is no longer there,