Francesca Wilson, now married to Superintendent John McLeish (Death of a Partner, etc.), is released from thralldom to her demanding baby son by a summons from her friend Dame Sarah Murchieson, the new Warden of Gladstone College, to take over the Bursar's job at Gladstone. It's academic business as usual, as Francesca finds when she looks up from the college accounts (which strongly suggest long- term fraud by a trusted caterer) to see that she's incurred the enmity of Deputy Warden Alice Hellier (resentful that she was passed over for the Warden's job and her husband George for the Bursar's)--and when she sees Sir Neville Allason, Permanent Secretary of Education and Science, soothe his grief over the death of Dr. Judith Symonds, the old Warden and his former lover, by taking brilliant young medieval historian Louise Taylor as her replacement. But then nocturnal assaults on two Gladstone students are followed by a murderous attack on Louise, and Francesca and John wonder how accidental Judith Symonds's death really was. Neel handles both her troubled principals and their academic background with a mastery worthy of P.D. James's warm heart and cold eye.