In the quiet village of Steynham St Michael there is an anonymous letter writer at work, jabbing and stabbing at the past's Achilles' heels of many of the upright citizens living there.
After one resident is driven to extreme measures to escape exposure, another is driven to murder.
In the village cards club, which meets once a week, tongues begin to wag, not only about the identities of the murderer and the poison pen letter-writer, but also about who exactly has received a letter.
There are also changes afoot at Market Darley Police Headquarters, as the national economy dictates that it accepts the straitened circumstances planned for it, and complies with recommendations for change.
And before any of this even happens, Harry Falconer drifts up from unconsciousness to find himself in complete darkness and barely able to move, the only sound being that of someone moaning in pain.