At the great Scottish manor house of Westerbrae, a London theatrical company gathers to hear a controversial new play. By the evening's end, the beautiful playwright has been brutally murdered in her bed-and Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley becomes immediately embroiled in a crime whose genesis is tangled in the obligations of love and the consequences of betrayal.
With orders to keep the case from the press as long as possible because of the notoriety of the principal suspects, Lynley and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers travel to the isolated estate. Among their suspects: the most powerful theatrical producer in Britain, two of the nation's most beloved stars, and the woman Lynley loves.
For Lynley, the investigation requires all the delicacy he can muster-and it forces him to face a personal dilemma as well. For present at Westerbrae on the night of the murder is Helen Clyde, a woman with whom Lynley shares a complicated history and an enduring friendship that has deepened into love. The fact that she occupied the room next to the murder victim cannot be overlooked. The fact that she did not occupy it alone cannot be ignored.
Fighting to overcome a jealousy that threatens to cloud his judgment and emotions so troubled they could lead to fatal mistakes, Lynley finds himself beset at every turn by family scandals, fierce theatrical rivalries, and shattering revelations. When the living occupy his thoughts more powerfully than the dead, the question becomes whether he can walk the treacherous line between the clinical detachment of a professional investigator and the seething turmoil of a lover.
For in the murder house, motives run very deep indeed. Outraged over what she sees as the kid-glove handling of an upper-crust murder, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers strikes out on her own, putting her career at risk and questioning her deepest professional loyalty as she begins a relentless search into the secrets that haunt not one family but two, and hold them to silence.
Filled with menace and suspense, Payment in Blood is as much rooted in the unexplored regions of the human heart as in the unforgiving Scottish countryside, where the blood that binds can also kill.