The Kentish village of Heronsdene is plagued by a series of mysterious fires and burglaries.
Psychologist and investigator Maisie Dobbs (Messenger of Truth, 2006, etc.) is hired to find answers by a corporation that plans to buy the brickworks and a large part of the estate owned by unpopular landowner Alfred Sandermere. During hops picking season, the area is crowded with Londoners, whose families have come to work there for generations and enjoy a kind of summer vacation for the poor, and with gypsies. The locals, disliking them all, blame the fires on accidents and the thievery on the incomers. For some reason, however, these confident citizens avoid a piece of unused ground, formerly the home of a Dutch family killed in a World War I raid. Maisie, whose grandmother was a gypsy, gets an inside track when she makes friends in their encampment; her assistant Billy and his family are among the hops pickers. Maisie’s domestic life is in turmoil as she faces the death of her wartime love. The upper-class surgeon she worked with at the front has lingered, badly wounded, for years. As she visits the villagers who politely answer her questions, often with lies, she patiently builds a picture of the macabre secret that casts a shadow over the area.
A painfully evocative tale of England’s struggles with class differences and poverty between the wars, and a clever mystery.