The watchers that night who saw only blackness and the suggestion of trees massed against an ebony sky claimed later that they knew something would happen. Some probably cursed their ill luck that they hadn't chosen the right hour to watch; others probably feigned disappointment but secretly rejoiced that they hadn't seen it. But one watcher, enveloped in fog and superstition, neither rejoiced nor cursed, viewing the spectacle merely as an eyewitness to the centuries-old custom and accepting the dubious honor that added his name to the meager list of Those Who Had Seen. A watcher didn't see a ghost every night.
The ghost seen this year is tied to the custom of Watching the Church Porch ¾a sighting of a person's spirit foreshadows that person's death within the year. Frightening, but not unusual. But it is odd, because someone else dies. And in circumstances leaving no doubt the death is murder ¾by a human hand.
The CID Team from the Derbyshire Constabulary begins sorting through motives and opportunities. There is the minister, who is upset that her daughter has abandoned the church to put her faith in psychics ¾could the minister have killed to bring her daughter back to the flock? And the big-shot television producer. Could he want the ghostly sighting proved true so his documentary on the subject draws a larger viewing audience ¾and increases his status and salary?
Detective-Sergeant Brenna Taylor has issues of her own ¾professional and personal. She thought she had her future with her boyfriend sorted out, but when her colleague, Mark Salt, enlists her help to break up with his girlfriend, Brenna wonders if it's just an act to get her sympathy ¾and love.
A string of burglaries in the village and a second murder add more pressures for the detectives. And questions. Does the village's former police constable volunteer to help the Team because he really wants to be back in the job, or is he there to hinder their investigation?
When Brenna is authorized to conduct a formal interview of a suspect she accepts the assignment eagerly, believing the Team is finally wrapping up the case. But the questioning ends inconclusively, plunging Brenna into despair. It isn't until another death and a life is threatened that Brenna finally uncovers the ruthless murderer who has devastated so many families.