The devil to thank- and the devil to pay- is the result of Naomi Johannes' death by drowning on Christmas Day, 1922. The Big Oak Hills harbor a clannish lot and the gossip of her strange miserliness, of her husband's unending drudgery, and of the possibility of a small fortune hidden on their farm sends out widening ripples of distrust, distortion and temptation. When the constable is unable to prove foul play, the sheriff is called in but he too is thwarted and when the immediate excitement dies down, repercussions accumulate. For her husband learns the joys of spending money, the Munsch family faces a mental unbalance when Mrs. Munsch broods overlong on suicide, Josie Morris doubts her husband's innocence, Marcy Ellis, the epileptic, dies, and Steve Braun, after helping Johannes find and spend the hidden hoard, ends vicious rumor in violent death. The close knit warp and woof of an isolated community shows its weak spots when suspicion threatens individuals and the story of their response to an unexpected catastrophe is strong in regional color and feeling.