Told his battalion is to be split up due to lack of recruits at home, Sharpe and Harper return to England to investigate. What should have been a simple query turns politically explosive as they come nearer to exposing profiteering on the home front that could jeopardize the Wellington's war.
Sharpe, with his new commanding officer, is sent to capture a castle when news comes of locals who will rise against Bonaparte. However, he is somewhat distracted by thoughts of his wife whom he was forced to leave while stricken with fever.
Sharpe is teamed with a Colonel he helped promote and they are tasked to destroy a powder magazine, but an alliance with the French may threaten their success. Meanwhile, Jane is wearying of the army life and Harper and Ramona are at odds.