What begins as a spate of sheep-stealing, escalates to arson and murder. Luckily for the villagers, Inspector MacDonald is visiting the area as he considers buying property ahead of his retirement from the police force. His attempt to remain on vacation doesn’t last long as he begins to assist local authorities in their inquiry.
Rachel Savernake is the daughter of a judge, ridiculously wealthy, slightly bored, and smart as a whip. In other words, she has all the qualities of a Bright Young Thing ready to solve mysteries.
The author, Bernard J. Farmer, was a Metropolitan police officer himself and had a penchant for book collecting, so the hero of this novel reflects the author quite a bit.
First published in 1944 (the same year it is set), it intertwines the reality of Britain at war and a delightfully unserious tone. Amidst food rations, petrol shortages, and city evacuees are hidden mince-pies, vapid couples, and a doddering lawyer.
The cast of village characters becomes a network of suspects, amateur detectives, and gossips — each trying to piece together the events of the evening.