The body of a well-liked local historian is found half-buried under a drystone wall near the village of Helmthorpe, Swainsdale. Who on earth would want to kill such a thoughtful, dedicated man? Penny Cartwright, a beautiful folk singer with a mysterious past, a shady land-developer, Harry's editor, and a local thriller writer are all suspects, and all are figures from Harry's previous, idyllic summers in the dale. A young girl, Sally Lumb, knows more than she lets on, and her knowledge could lead to danger. Inspector Banks' second case unearths disturbing secrets behind a bucolic facade.