Dame Beatrice is summoned to Galliard Hall by a heretofore unknown relative, one Romilly Lestrange, who asks his guest for her psychiatric opinion of his troubled wife. It turns out that the patient in question–a young woman called Trilby but preferring the name Rosamund–has, according to Romilly, lately developed a habit of tossing things off a cliff top and into into the sea at nine-month intervals. At last count, a transistor radio, a small cat, a pet monkey, and a realistic baby doll have been chucked over, and Romilly is concerned about what–or who–may follow. A conversation with the young woman, however, paints a different picture: Rosamund claims the sea story is a fiction, maintains that her clothes are kept locked up, and says that she is only allowed access to fancy dress costumes like her current Joan of Arc armor. What’s more, she insists that she is not married to Romilly Lestrange, but that she is his ward, being kept from a rightful inheritance when she turns 25. The sharp-eyed psychiatrist is unsure who to believe. There is something sinister in Romilly Lestrange’s character and suspect in his relationship with the “housekeeper,” Judith. But there also lies a strong play-acting element in Rosamund/Trilby’s demeanor, with her penchant for forced hysterics. To untangle the knot found along this particular branch of the Lestrange family tree, Dame Beatrice confers with her son, Sir Ferdinand, and takes tea with her acerbic relation, Lady Selina. When Dame Beatrice is shot at during her stay at Galliard Hall–while in bed, from a squint hole in the wall–she decides to examine the will and testament of Felix Napoleon Lestrange and discovers, to her surprise, that she is one of the named beneficiaries. When the body of another relative is found floating in the sea (apparently run through with a sword from the house), Dame Beatrice must use both her psychiatric and her sleuthing skills to separate the slightly cracked from the criminally insane.
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“If there is a sybilline tradition of detection, embracing Miss Marple, Miss Silver, and perhaps even Miss Murchison, Mrs. Bradley is its presiding genius.” Philip Larkin