Chief-Inspector Browne and Detective Sergeant Hunter are among the parishioners at St. Oswald's annual festival when a burned corpse is discovered on the church grounds. The remains are eventually identified as those of Gary Carr, a frequently out-of-work mechanic whose wife Theresa claims he'd gone to another town on a temporary job. Theresa, her manipulative mother, teenage son Frank, and playacting daughter Anne-Marie--along with neighbors Christine and Glyn Morgan and their daughter Zoe--all appear to Inspector Browne to be hiding something. But even patient readers may have departed before his instincts are proved correct--defeated by a parade of wordy, ill-defined characters, lots of fuzzy psychobabble, an aimlessly meandering narrative, and more than they ever wanted to know about the history and rituals of the Anglican Church. An undoubtedly talented newcomer in dire need of discipline and direction.