When Marcia Salden, a successful business woman, is found drowned in the local river, the police are called in. There is no clear evidence that the woman was murdered, but to Inspector Luke Thanet this is definitely a suspicious death. It seems that Ms Salden's talent for making money was matched by her talent for making enemies. A lot of people had the motive to kill the woman, but who had the opportunity? Inspector Thanet means to find out, even if he has to investigate them all.
The eighth in Simpson's series featuring Detective Inspector Luke Thanet typifies the British author's award winners. Events in Kent are related in a measured fashion, keeping pace with the dogged investigation of a case by Thanet and his partner, Sgt. Mike Lineham. When the body of Marcia Salden is found in the River Sture, an autopsy proves she was murdered, sending the officers to the Saldens' manor house to question the victim's widower Bernard, her secretary and the housekeeper. The three answer willingly, though with an odd air of reservation that is quite different from the outright enmity expressed by the community toward the dead woman. As Thanet and Lineham search for information, they face an apparently hopeless tangle of sub rosa relationships, perhaps linked to Marcia's killing. A shrewd, cold businesswoman, she was resented for her rise from poverty and, as Lineham suspects, for a stronger reason. As Thanet and Lineham patiently separate the raveled bits in the evidence, they learn the astonishing but undeniable motive for killing the ambitious woman.