In the village of Castle Farthing a mean-spirited, spiteful, curmudgeonly old man is found drugged and strangled in the kitchen of his cottage, with no obvious clues to the perpetrator of the crime.
DI Falconer and Acting DS Carmichael are summoned from the police headquarters in the nearby town of Market Darley and begin to uncover a web of grudges against the old man and a sea of familial connections between those who knew him.
As the heat of July continues relentlessly, tempers flare, disturbing the usual rural calm of the village, and the normally imperturbable Harry Falconer. Faced with a crime with no obvious prime suspect and the idiosyncrasies of his new partner,Carmichael, he feels that he is gradually losing his grip on the case as the body count rises.
Undecided whether he has one or two murderers to bring to justice, only a moment of serendipity will show him how events actually unfolded, and allow him to close his File on Castle Farthing, still smarting from the hideous twist with which events finally came to a head.