The shotgun murder of Diana Smyth, pregnant bride of Oxford-educated hoodlum Hippo Doyle, takes on a sinister new aspect when it's followed by a second similar murder, and a third. Although Doyle has a long record of violence and prison terms, and Mary Grogan's boyfriend lied about his alibi, it's the husband of the third victim, Anne Bryant, who catches Inspector Jim Proby's eye -- maybe because he's just seduced Proby's lavish wife, Sheila. Against the odds and the usual pressure from his higher-ups, Proby insists that churchwarden Henry Bryant is the man they want. But it's not going to be easy to obtain evidence against a suspect who's literally written the book on counterespionage, even though, as a fourth murderous attack reveals, Bryant is indeed the killer. There follows a game of wits: Proby bugs Bryant's flat and puts him under heavy surveillance; Bryant easily spots both mikes and shadows, keeps Sheila Proby at arm's length, and bides his time while Proby's politically sensitive Chief Constable gives him an ultimatum and a time limit. It isn't until time has run out that Proby's questions about an inconsequential Christmas gift give him one last chance... A sober, unspectacular debut for quietly appealing Proby. But how can Gano make his next case equally arresting without savaging the poor man's domestic life all over again?