Though the Martingale manor house has hosted the annual St Cedd's Church fête for generations, this year feels different. On top of organizing stalls and presiding over luncheon, Mrs Eleanor Maxie now also has to contend with the news of her son's sudden engagement to the new parlour maid, Sally Jupp. Sally has quite a reputation as a ruthless social climber, and no one at Martingale seems too happy about the engagement. But the Maxie family barely has time to contend with her wily ways-on the following morning the whole village is shocked by the discovery of Sally Jupp's body. Investigating the violent death at the manor house, Detective Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh becomes embroiled in the complicated passions beneath the calm surface of English village life.