Every year, at Halloween, high on the Cornish cliffs, a life-sized effigy of a man is strapped to a blazing wheel and run into the sea - a re-enactment of a hideous old legend where the figure had been a living sacrifice.
And now Jonathan Riddle, well-known and respected local builder and undertaker, has disappeared - and it seems all too likely that his corpse has gone the way of the historic 'scapegoat'.
As Chief Superintendent Wycliffe begins to investigate, more and more unpleasant facts emerge until he is left with an incredible, and seemingly impossible, solution . . .