Luton in the grip of a sweltering summer is a pretty sedentary place - which is bad for the private detective business. Thieves, fraudsters and philanderers take the month off and the only swingers in town are the ones to be found on the 19th hole of the Royal Hoo Golf Course. The civilized reputation of the “Hoo” is in trouble, however.
PI can mean many things, but can it really mean a balding, middle-agd redundant lathe operator from a high rise in Luton, Beds? Joe Sixsmith thinks it can. His Aunt Mirabelle thinks you'd have to be crazy to hire him, and Joe's current clients certainly fit the bill. One seems to be confessing to the brutal murder of his whole family; another thinks she's a witch.
Hurrying out of St Monkey's church on the last Amen of the Creation, Joe Sixsmith stumbles across a boy's corpse in a cardboard box and into more trouble than he's ever known. Soon his casebook is full to bursting: retired colonial Mrs C. demands to know how the boy got there; Gallie, the Mutant from Outer Space, urges him to find the stranger nosing into her granddad's past; while Butcher,
At the same time he is trying to find out who is threatening all kinds of nastiness against top athlete Zak Oto if she wins her New Year's Day race to celebrate the opening of Luton's splendid Pleasure Dome. Everybody looks suspicious, from her ex-con minder Starbright Jones, through her trainers, past and present, to her own family. And the only reassurance Joe has that he's getting warm is when someone starts trying to kill him!
Private investigator Joe Sixsmith, a former lathe operator whose skill at detection is part pure luck and part and uncanny ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, rushes into a burning cottage to save a young woman trapped inside. She's barely alive, nameless...and the subject of Joe's new mystery. Joe is in Wales for a church choir festival. He's retained by two parties to uncover the identity of the young woman. Joe's not up to any more heroics, though his clients may be. But before a killer can be brought to justice, he may have to play hero one more time-to save his own skin.
Who would sever a tongue from a living mouth? Or kill a pathetic, homeless old man? Or terrify a young doctor into silence? The questions are piling up, and Doug McHarg can't stop asking them, even - especially - when he's warned off his inquiries by his boss in the local police force, by Scotland Yard, and by increasingly professional death-threats. The pattern that emerges is of a shadowy, immensely powerful organization, with a reach that extends to the White House and the English throne. And all that stands against them is the implacable McHarg - one discontented copper with little left to lose.
The tiny village of Illthwaite in Cumbria, England, seems to be the kind of place where nothing much has happened for the last few centuries. But the two young strangers who arrive there on the same dank autumn day soon find out that appearances are deceptive. Samantha Flood and Miguel Madero have absolutely nothing in common -- except a burning desire to find out more about possible connections between Illthwaite and their families. Their way forward is beset by deceit, obstruction, mystery, violence, and love as they struggle to discover who they really are.