Guy Lampard, the quixotic director of King's Weltham Institute of Pomology, is mentor to scientist Emma Ritchie--a fact much resented by her lover, deputy director Roger Challoner. And when Lampard decides to appoint his old chum Sam Partlett to a post promised to someone else, eyebrows are raised--since Partlett is known as an eccentric, sometimes violent alcoholic (which seems to be a source of fun for the perverse Lampard). Lampard is soon murdered, of course--so other motives surface: the disappearance of drugs from the Institute; strange behavior by Lampard's secretary Maureen. And when Partlett commits suicide, leaving a confession behind, the case seems closed. Not so, however--as revealed in a final, half-convincing twist. Lots of polite conversation, a mildly interesting love story, and some fairly bright Institute atmosphere: so-so work from a reliable but increasingly casual (halfhearted plots, half-drawn characters) veteran.