Devotees of English-countryside atmosphere will welcome the arrival of Dan Mallett--up-to-date West Country poacher, ne'er-do-well, rake, and sometime sleuth; this is the first of a promised series. Dan must turn detective here because of a dastardly protection racket: some vicious mob is demanding money from local farmers, then burning and vandalizing their properties if the money isn't paid. Why is poverty-stricken Dan so upset about this? Because the burnings have brought floods of coppers to the area, which interferes with Dan's poaching; and because the coppers tend to suspect notorious Dan of the protection-racket crimes. So Dan resolves to catch the villains himself, aided by the country-bumpkin pose he affects and by Camilla, the married manor lady whose bed he often sneaks into. Some dandy action (a chase with a baby pram), some touching moments (with Dan's sad, ill, disappointed Mum), and a good deal of provincial humor--which will delight many readers and daunt many others.