When Inspector Rafferty sees Barbara Longman lying so peacefully in the flower-filled meadow by the River Tiffey, he finds it hard to believe she's dead. Mrs Longman was a popular woman - who could have wanted to kill her?
The murder appears to bear the hallmarks of the Suffolk serial killer, but could a copycat murderer be at work - a copycat moreover, who enjoyed intimate knowledge of the victim?
With the help of his sergeant, Dafyd Llewellyn, Rafferty begins to question Barbara Longman's family, descendants of the rich and powerful Maximillian Shore, As their inquiries continue it becomes clear that every person in the Shore household has motives in plenty for wanting Barbara out of the way. So why should Rafferty have an instinctive feeling that their long-dead patriarch is in some way connected with Barbara's murder?
Rafferty's instincts are not enough, however, and firm proof of the killer's identity remains elusive. Until, in a blinding flash of inspiration, a memory from Rafferty's own past provides the vital clue which leads him to the terrible truth.
Following Dead Before Morning, the second Inspector Rafferty/Sergeant Llewellyn mystery successfully brings the English duo together again when a woman is found suffocated in an Essex field. Barbara Longman, tireless worker for ecological causes and a good mother, is not your average murder victim. So, at first, Rafferty links her death to unsolved serial killings in a neighboring district. But then clues begin to point towards one of her family-or at least someone with intimate details about her personal life. Rafferty, nicknamed the British Columbo, and his more educated sidekick Llewellyn closely question the prominent family with which Longman lived. Interspersed with Rafferty's keen musings and tentative deductions about the case is the growing connection between him and his sergeant as Llewellyn begins to get serious about Rafferty's cousin, whom he is dating.