Chief Inspector Reg Wexford has retired. He and his wife, Dora, now divide their time between Kingsmarkham and their daughter, Sheila's, coach house in Hampstead. Wexford takes great pleasure in his books, but, for all the benefits of a more relaxed lifestyle, he misses being the law. But a chance meeting with an old acquaintance in a London street changes everything. Tom Ede is now a Detective Superintendent, and is very keen to recruit Wexford as an adviser on a difficult case. The bodies of two women and a man have been discovered in the old coal hole of an attractive house in St John's Wood. None carries identification. But the man's pockets contain expensive jewellery. To Wexford, this is definitely a case worth coming out of retirement for. He is intrigued and excited by the challenge, but unaware that this new investigative role will bring him into extreme physical danger.