The Inkpen family has bought back its ancestral home, Inkpen Manor at Midsomer Deverell, and they plan to turn a village Memorial Garden on their land into a tea shop. This causes consternation in the village, and the Bennetts (who previously owned the manor and founded the Memorial Garden) lead the opposition. Then young Fliss Inkpen-Thomas is found dead in the Memorial Garden with her skull smashed in, and a few days later her mother Elspeth dies of poisoning, with the possibility of suicide firmly denied by her family and friends.
Barnaby investigates the deaths and finds older and more deep-seated motives for murder lurking in another ancient family.
Barnaby attends the funeral of the owner of the Easterly Grange Hotel and hears that the hotel manager has gone missing. The will is read, and it seems the hotel has been divided between the missing manager and his beautiful wife, the hotel's chef and its accountant.
A dog finds the hotel manager's severed hand, and the others named in the will receive threatening notes. Then accidents start to happen to them all, including mushroom-poisoning, an apparently accidental shooting, a falling drinks cabinet and a sabotaged vehicle. Barnaby next learns that the missing hotel manager had in his possession a more recent will, which is also now missing....
A man's naked body is found in a crop circle, then another dead man electrocuted at the wheel of his vehicle, and then yet another dead man in another crop circle. Barnaby is not impressed by rumours of extra-terrestrial killings, and is sure he is dealing with a human murderer. Before he can solve the mystery, he has to fathom a forty-year-old rivalry in love, the vengeance of the loser, and the defences of the winner.moreless
Dr Burgess, on his way home from a party at the glamorous Francesca Ward's riding school, knocks a stranger down in the road at Newton Magna, and the stranger mysteriously vanishes. Barnaby identifies the missing man as Sean O'Connell, a disgraced Irish vet, then he recognizes the village's new squire as Melvyn Stockard, a retired villain. A body found in a well proves to be the father of the man Stockard's daughter is about to marry... everyone knows he was against the marriage, but is Stockard a killer, and where does the missing Irishman fit in?
A postman is brutally murdered on his morning round in the hamlet of Goodman's Land. Local WPC Jay Nash helps Barnaby and Troy to establish that Dave offered a very personal service to the female villagers, leaving a trail of jealous husbands in his wake, and it becomes clear that the tiny village is riven with other adulterous affairs. Then the body count begins to go up...
Meanwhile, romance is blossoming between Troy and Jay.
Then barbiturates are stolen from Raif and Georgina Canning's veterinary surgery and the district nurse is found in her crashed car in a confused state. Barnaby and Troy dash to the Manor, fearing the drugs theft may be connected to the death threats - but they find Melissa is already lying dead by the swimming pool with a syringe in her stomach. Now they have a murderer to find.