Tom Peterlee, a member of a large family who live in three adjoining cottages, is murdered. Eva, his mother is quite cavalier in reaction to his death in Wexford's opinion and other family members are no more helpful. Heather, his widow, seems dumb with grief and his brother and meek sister-in-law are similarly evasive. Family friend Carol is more forthcoming, providing Heather with an alibi, but Wexford is sure one of the Peterlees is a killer. Burden has problems of his own when his daughter starts dating a married man and a series of ramraids in Kingsmarkham add to Wexford's problems.