On the same day his party's ascent into the majority secures him a very, very junior but nonetheless desirable cabinet post
in the Department of Education and Training, Colin Pinnock, a member of Parliament from Milton, Yorkshire, finds his public
life neatly eclipsed by his private goings-on. Someone has thrust a postcard scrawled with an insolent “WHO DO YOU THINK
YOU ARE?” through the door of his Pimlico flat, sending him back from Westminister to his home county to question his
near-senile father and his father's best friend, George Eakin, both of whom suggest that Colin's arrival may have been less a
matter of birth than of barter. His suspicions deepen when his colleague Margaret Stevens notices a strong resemblance between
Colin and Lord John Revill, a junior minister whose career was cut short by his disappearance in 1962—the year of Colin's
birth—from his home in Upper Brook Street, leaving behind a dead wife and a pregnant mistress. Determined to unearth the true
story of that night in Mayfair, Colin engages researchers both paid (the sharp and prickly Frieda Brewer) and unpaid (his sweet
and sensible ex-girlfriend, Susan). Together they find that, like politics, all history is personal.
Not so much a puzzle as an excursion into deep dealings from the past. If Barnard is the Jane Austen of mystery writers,
then this is his Sense and Sensibility: pleasantly sentimental, morally unambiguous, and relatively unsurprising.