From the confines of his hospital bed, Inspector Jury is seeking refuge from Nurse Hannibal's constant speculations about his chances of survival when his friend, and partner in crime (prevention), Melrose Plant, arrives with a distraction. It's a story he overheard a young woman telling in The Grave Maurice about a girl named Nell Ryder - granddaughter to the owner of the Ryder Stud Farm in Cambridgeshire who has been missing for more than a year. More interestingly though, she is the daughter of Jury's surgeon.
In the wake of this discovery, a woman is found dead on the Ryders' farm - a stranger to the Ryders, but not to Plant. She is the woman he overheard in The Grave Maurice.
Together with Jury, Nell's family, and the Cambridgeshire police, Plant embarks on a search to find Nell and bring her home. But is there more to their mission than just restoring a fifteen-year-old girl to her family?