Between-books novelist Michael Lockerbie pays a welcome visit to his brother Innes and Innes’ wife Mary in the quiet Dorset village of Strode Hillary. The quiet does not last, however: Michael interrupts a burglary at his brother’s house, and historical items–including a doll and a metal man-trap–are stolen from the local museum. The criminal activity appears to continue when a wealthy sheikh who has taken up residence in Strode Hillary is shot at while talking outside with a land agent. Before long one of the sheikh’s sons gets his leg caught in the man-trap, and the land agent, an unlikeable man named Winters, disappears.
Innes appeals to Dame Beatrice to look into these matters, and the psychiatrist begins her investigation by interviewing those suspected of the museum robbery. When the missing Mr. Winters resurfaces–he was buried under a half-submerged punt in a trout-stream, the museum doll pinned to his frozen body–Dame Beatrice deduces that the land agent, and not the sheikh, was the intended target of the potshot. But what of the other goings-on? The detective finds the answers, the novelist finds inspiration for his next book, and Strode Hillary returns to its quiet existence.
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“Let all right-minded lovers of the detective story salute Gladys Mitchell. Her prentice work was done when Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers were at the height of their fame, and she has never strayed from the standards of good writing, careful plotting and educated wit which were more usual then than now.” The Tablet