When Tom Sinclair, an enthusiastic but inexperienced young minister, arrives at his first parish in a small North Carolina town in 1962, he has no idea what troubles lie ahead. One weekend he is called unexpectedly out of town and returns to find that a murder occurred that morning in his parish house office. Since the victim was killed while sitting at Tom’s desk, the sheriff thinks Tom might have been the intended target and warns him to watch his step. Tom, however, has recently learned an ugly secret about the victim that might account for his murder, and he doesn’t take the warning seriously. But Tom also has made his share of enemies. He has defended an old black man’s right to attend the all-white church, thereby alienating various members of the congregation, including the most powerful family in town. Furthermore, Tom has become romantically involved with a divorced parishioner who has an abusive ex-husband and a deeply troubled son, both of whom have a reason for wanting Tom dead.