The village of Aspern Tallow is being haunted, according to the villagers. Then a body is found in the graveyard, and Barnaby and Troy find themselves investigating the ghost.
The sleepy village of Martyr Warren is invaded by quarrelsome New Age travellers, some of whom fall out with Hector Bridges, a local magistrate. The police are well aware of the tensions, but matters come to a head when Hector is found shot dead. It quickly appears that he was feared by almost everyone in sight, including his own family. And there is more to the travellers than meets the eye - one of them is a former British army officer who fought alongside Hector in the Falklands War... Then (as so often happens to Barnaby and Troy) another dead body is found, this time that of an old man at the travellers' camp.
Meanwhile, Barnaby is not feeling in full fighting trim for murder investigations, as Joyce has put him on a strict diet to lose weight.
Barnaby and Troy are in Badger's Drift again, this time to investigate the murder of an unpopular property developer called Richard Bayly who had been suffering from a brain tumour. Bayly had recently come up with plans to build a new housing estate in the sleepy village, despite determined local opposition, and he was killed with an Indian sword belonging to Stephen Wentworth, the local Vicar.
Another interesting factor is the recent arrival in the village of Simon Fletcher, a theatre director with unhappy childhood memories and perhaps an old grievance.
A craft centre in the old mill at Morton Fendle is losing money. Several locals have invested in the business and believe they have been swindled by Alan Hollingsworth, the man behind it. When Hollingsworth's glamorous wife Simone goes missing, Barnaby believes she has been kidnapped and puts Hollingsworth under observation. However, Hollingsworth evades the police, carrying a bundle of cash, and a woman neighbour who follows him to his rendez-vous is killed in a bizarre road accident. Then Hollingsworth is found dead, and Simone turns up alive. Barnaby guesses she and a friend faked the kidnapping, but he can't prove it.
The body of Agnes Gray, a woman who loved only animals, is found in the river - but she did not drown. And then her cousin Esslyn Carmichael is tricked into killing himself on stage during an amateur production of the murder mystery Amadeus.
Barnaby has to get to grips with clues which include adultery, dramatic ambition, stolen religious art, and large donations to animal charities, before unmasking a killer who proves to be mad.
Meanwhile, love begins to blossom between Cully Barnaby and Nico Bentley, one of the cast of Amadeus...