It was meant to be a festive engagement weekend. But, when Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and his fiancée, Deborah Cotter, arrive at Howenstow, Lynley's family home, they find the atmosphere rife with tension.

For Lynley's friend, forensic scientist Simon Allcourt-St. James, who is struggling with the dual pain of losing Deborah and of watching his sister involve herself in an unsavory relationship, the weekend stretches out interminably. Only the presence of his old friend, Helen Clyde, affords him any comfort. As for Lynley, estranged from his mother and now faced with the fact that his younger brother has returned to an earlier drug dependence, home is full of tormenting memories he'd much rather forget.

Then a journalist is found gruesomely murdered in the nearby village of Nanrunnel, and the engagement party is well and truly over. Though the crime is out of Lynley's jurisdiction as a criminal investigator for New Scotland Yard, it soon becomes his primary concern-for the majority of the evidence points not only to the man who manages his estate but ultimately to Lynley's own family.

More violent deaths will follow, as will a crushing betrayal of love and friendship. As St. James assists Lynley in painstakingly piecing together the forensic evidence at each crime scene, a clear picture of the real motives for each death begins to emerge. But what St. James can't fully understand-and what Lynley is unwilling to speak of-is that blood ties are nearly unbreakable in this Cornwall village, as are the bonds between the Howenstow aristocrats and those who have long served them and who would keep their secrets to the grave.


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