The newly wedded bliss of Roger the Chapman, itinerant peddler and amateur sleuth (The Weaver’s Inheritance, 2001, etc.), is interrupted when an irresistible impulse—a message from God, Roger knows from past experience—sends him to Plymouth. He spends his first night in Plymouth next door to a well-appointed house that stands empty, but not, Roger soon discovers, locked. Wealthy old Oliver Capstick’s been clubbed to death by his great-nephew Beric Gifford, who has since disappeared—some say by eating the leaf of Saint John’s fern to render him magically invisible. That night, Roger enters the house and finds a pin formed in the letters B.G. that supports the sordid story Roger soon ferrets out from eyewitnesses, who seem remarkably open to his unauthorized interrogations. Beric Gifford and his sister Berenice depended on their great-uncle’s generosity and anticipated their inheritance to rescue them from their prodigality. Beric, however, inflamed Capstick when he proposed marrying his sister’s maid, Katherine Glover. The morning after Capstick threatened to disinherit him, he was found dead. Witnesses saw a bloody Beric flee the scene of the crime, and nobody’s seen him since—except for Roger, who thinks he’s spotted the fugitive kissing Katherine Glover. Roger can’t believe that Beric has been invisible all these months, chewing on fern leaves and succored by his sister and his lover, but what other possibility can there be?
A sinister and sensational explanation emerges only after several uncomfortable sleepovers on Roger’s part and many prosy recapitulations on Sedley’s.