Hamish Gavin has accepted a teaching position at a unique institution, Joynings, where almost all of the students–and most of the faculty–have dark deeds and secrets in their past that led them there. Equal parts safe house, college, and minimum confinement prison, Joynings warden Gascoigne “Gassie” Medlar places the emphasis on school sports programs, with academic classes arriving a distant second. Hamish soon meets the other teacher/coaches, including a disagreeable man named Jones, who is unpopular with students and staff, and for several good reasons. David Jones is a careless womaniser, targeting a number of female students and work staff; his actions and oversights have caused sports injuries to some promising athletes, including a stunt that sent a long distance jumper to the hospital; he’s unreliable and drinks heavily; and complaints to Medlar about him don’t produce a result, as Jones is the warden’s brother-in-law.
When Jones disappears from campus, no one is overly concerned, though Hamish finds the behaviour of some of the students odd. Days later, Jones’s body is discovered buried in the long jump pit, and Hamish contacts his mother and her employer, Dame Beatrice, who takes up the case. Dame B.’s investigations uncover several motives of people who would prefer to see the unlikeable Jonah out of the picture, including Medlar, who may have been his blackmail victim. A trophy javelin is found in a changing room, covered in red paint, but the real murder weapon is soon found among the practice javelins: one of them was fitted with a lethal steel dagger tip. As Dame Beatrice gathers more clues, a student’s body is found in the woods, bludgeoned by a metal shot. An off-campus meeting of suspects at the village police station gives Dame Beatrice the opportunity to unmask the school’s sports-minded killer.
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