In this 1989 book (that follows Five Bells and Bladebone), Richard Jury is visiting the Bronte Museum in Haworth, York, when he becomes interested in another visitor, a well-dressed woman who seems rather remote. Later in the local inn where they the only two diners, a man shows up who she first argues with and then shoots. After the inquest Jury recalls a case from years before in which the woman's stepson had been kidnapped and never found.
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With the assistance of Melrose Plant, Jury interviews family members and locals. There is a subplot involving popular music, as well as the appearance of Brian Macalvie, Jury's polar opposite except in dedication. There are scenes in Devon and London, and subplots involving the usual gang.