Inspector (now Chief Inspector) Alec Stainton goes back to the distant past, as in last year's The Noose of Time, to find the motive for the shooting of military-historian Andrew Hunter on a Sussex airfield planted with barley. Hunter had been invited to address an RAF reunion at Hartfield Park; and with the help of executive-rival historian Dr. Frances Walker, Alec narrows the list of suspects down to four RAF veterans now visiting from South Africa: Bill Janssen, Stu Phillips, Cedric Dixon, and Kenny Taylor. But James Parker, the farmer who discovered the corpse, behaves more suspiciously than any of these men--and so do his wife and mother. Although a murderous attack on the son of another Hartfield veteran makes it clear that Hunter was killed to hide a secret he'd discovered, all the suspects seem to be hiding something--a missing 12-gauge shotgun, an illegitimate child, accusations of cowardice, and a final revelation of treachery beyond treachery that will leave most readers at the post. The plot takes a while to gather steam--the suspects aren't very distinct from each other; periodic flashbacks to 1944 slow down the action they illuminate; and newly bereaved Alec is so muffled he could be any of a dozen less engaging fictional detectives--but the story repays all the patience it demands.