Barnaby and DS Scott investigate the murder of Patrick Pennyman, an undertaker in the village of Fletcher's Cross. The man's wife thinks he committed suicide but the pathologist determines he was killed. The man died soon after his return home after attending a service at the local spiritualist church, itself the source of some controversy in the village. As the investigation progresses, the police learn that Pennyman was generally disliked. Former employees, business partners and others all had a grudge against him of one sort or another. Barnaby believes the head of the Spiritualist church to be a charlatan and while there is a link to the ever increasing number of murder victims, the solution to the crimes is to be found in an illicit love affair.