Les Taunton, convicted of murdering young but far-from-virginal Olive Hanwell, is released from prison after a successful appeal. But, while mechanic Taunton naively looks forward to going home to his job, cottage, and friends in the village of Beck-holt, the town is actually in an uproar of fear and rage about his return: they're getting up petitions, holding meetings, implicitly threatening violence. In fact, only a few newcomers--ineffectual priest Shaw Watson, coolly competent Dr. Clare Salford, teacher Ed Edgeworth--will be willing to join with plucky landowner Joan Davidson in an attempt to stem this vigilante tide . . . which does indeed slip over into savagery. And there'll have to be a dandy last-minute solution of Olive's murder to save poor, innocent Taunton--who goes his blundering way to almost certain death. A crisp, compelling mystery ""debut"" (Graham Gaunt is the pseudonym of a previously published writer), with pithy insights into the underside of English village life.