Detective Inspector Lynley is approached by business magnate Bernard Fairclough for a confidential review - not a formal investigation - of the circumstances of his nephew's demise. The coroner's verdict is accidental death. Still grieving for his murdered wife, Lynley has personal reasons for welcoming a spell away from London. He heads to the wild beauty of the Lake District, with Deborah and Simon St James to provide cover for his inquiries. Barbara Havers, back at base, makes her own unique contribution to the case, distracted only by Isabelle's ambitions to improve her Detective Sergeant's appearance. When he comes to know the various members of the extended Fairclough dynasty, Lynley finds many possible motives for murder, and uncovers layers of deceit and betrayal that expose the lies at the heart of the Cumbrian community.
Lord Bernard Fairclough, a wealthy industrialist, asks Det. Insp. Thomas Lynley to secretly delve into the accidental death of his gay nephew, Ian Cresswell, in bestseller George's less than satisfying 17th novel featuring the Scotland Yard policeman (after 2010's This Body of Death). Det. Sgt. Barbara Havers and other series regulars help Lynley try to unspool a tangled web of drug addiction and recovery, gay marriage, extramarital affairs, egg donation, and online sexual predators. As usual in George's work, the process of detection reveals more about those doing the detecting than the mystery itself. Some of the subplots such as Havers's attempts to spruce up her appearance lead to dead ends. Zed Benjamin, a bumbling rookie journalist, offers some farcical moments to lighten up the general gloom. Statements of the obvious ("Deborah hated being at odds with her husband") and platitudes for unbearably painful situations will annoy some, while others will see the denouement from a mile off.