The body of a young man, almost naked, in the car park behind one of Haworths many eating establishments marks the beginning of the case, and it is his identity that is the first puzzle for DC Charlie Peace adn his superior, Detective Superintendent Oddie.
But before long the puzzle that most concerns them is the nature of the close-knit artistic community where Decland OHearn had acted as odd-job boy. The little knot of people seem to be united less by their ability as painters than by a common worship of the distinguished painter Ranulph Byatt, who seems to prefer the adulation of his inferiors to the judgement of his equals. Peace, searching for clues, soon starts to wonder if there isnt a sinister reason for this. And as the search for the killer gathers pace, Peace and Oddie uncover a series of dark secrets on the harsh Haworth landscape.