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On the peaceful and secluded estate of Lord and Lady Bottrel, the body of amateur flautist Tony Mills has been found, shot by his own gun. It appears to be suicide--but a closer inspection reveals some sinister inconsistencies, and Chief Superintendent Wycliffe is called in to investigate. As Wycliffe begins to unravel the last days of the dead man, another mystery is revealed--the disappearance of Lizzie Biddick, a pretty young girl who worked for the Bottrell family as a maid. Gradually, bitter family feuds and illicit relationships are uncovered--and then another body shatters the pastoral serenity of the Cornish estate for ever.