In April, when blackthorn blossom clothes the hedgerows like a wedding veil, there sometimes comes a frost so severe that it seems as if the summer will never come. Country people call this a blackthorn winter. For Claudia Barron, arriving in the Dorset village of Court Barton that April, blackthorn winter seems like a metaphor for everything that has happened to her. Hiding from her previous life, she adopts an assumed name and applies for a job in the local school. But villages don't much like mysteries and secrets and soon the inhabitants of Court Barton set out to find out what it is that Claudia Barron is hiding from and why.