Chief Superintendent Charmian Daniels of the CID has bought a small house in Windsor, scene of her first outing in this series (Windsor Red, 1988). It's not far from the royal residence or from the polo-playing field and stables owned by elderly, cancer-ridden Tommy Bingham. The house next door to Charmian's is occupied by four young people who work at Tommy's stables. A devoted hanger-on there is 13-year-old Joanna Gaynor, whose lawyer father plays polo. Things start to go awry in this idyllic setting when a put-out-to-pasture pony at the stable is found knifed to death. Charmian, investigating, finds something strange and enigmatic about the Gaynor family; but the incident of the slain pony is soon overshadowed by the murders of three unrelated women--one of them the Gaynors' babysitter--all murdered in the same savage way. Charmian consults at length with sharp Sergeant Wimpey, of the local police, and with psychiatric guru Ulricka Seely, even while she feels under threat herself after Finding a gutted rabbit on her doorstep. There's much palaver about notes found under two of the bodies, as well as about the meaning of the crude sketches on them--are they holes, beards, or what? Holes and red-herrings abound here--along with a child-abuse subplot, many weighty but obscure pronouncements from Ulricka, and, in the end, an unlikely killer with an off-the-wall motive. The story's heavily menacing atmosphere, Melville's quirky but polished writing style, and some attractive characters add up to a work that exasperates and entertains in almost equal proportions.