Ex-cop Alan Craig, now a struggling p.i. (A Matter of Record, etc), is hired by lawyer Joanna Cregg after her cousin Sandra's husband--Keith Parkhouse--leaves their house in a snit and fails to reappear. Parkhouse, a teacher and the local radical in Verbridge village, is given to causes--supporting a band of gypsies encamped on public ground has been one of them. When a badly burned body is found in a caravan that had gone up in flames at the site, it's first identified as Parkhouse's, until he turns up--very much alive--having spent a few days at a friend's country cottage. The corpse, it turns out, is really that of Paul Linton, a jeweler and village V.I.P. who's threatened to get Parkhouse fired, whose wife is having an affair with architect Bryan Handforth, and who'd been opposing the development plans of garage-owner Hugh Moxon. There's much questioning of locals, including Joanna's somewhat barmy father, who has a personal anti-gypsy campaign going, and much hashing and rehashing of everyone's whereabouts during the crucial time frame. But the police are at a loss--until Craig puts together some obscure observations of his own to come up with the killer. The characters seem to share Craig's chronic mild depression, and a dreary lot they are. Plot and motivation are uncompelling; there's a last-ditch effort to build some tension--but it's too little, too late. Dullsville.