When two men are discovered, with their throats cut, in the vestry of St Matthew's Church, the police are faced with an intriguing challenge for one of the victims was ex-Government minister Sir Paul Berowne, the other, Harry Mack, a local tramp and alcoholic.
For Commander Adam Dalgliesh, now heading a Scotland Yard unit set up to investigate politically sensitive crimes, the case is particularly affecting - he had known Berowne, and the minister had asked for his help regarding an anonymous letter shortly before his resignation.
Could the letter, implicating Berowne in the deaths of two women, be linked to the bodies in the vestry? How are Berowne's wife and family involved - and what is the relationship between Berowne and the tramp?
Aided by Inspector Kate Miskin and Chief Inspector John Massingham, Dalgliesh must answer these questions to uncover the truth...