Brendon Gallagher, a long serving MI6 agent and resident of North London, makes an infrequent visit to Lingtree, the Bodmin Moor village where he grew up from the age of eleven, to attend the funeral of Gareth Pettit, one of his best childhood friends. Having been granted indefinite leave as a reward for his exploits abroad, Brendon decides to take the opportunity of staying over a few days in ‘The Judge’s Parlour’ an allegedly haunted 16th Century pub built next to the remains of a Norman castle. Although he and his friends spent much of their time climbing and playing on the treacherous ramparts of the castle’s keep, it is nearly fifty years since Brendon last summoned the courage to enter its dark, foreboding interior.
Like many villages where small, uncompetitive farms, local shops and garages have lost out to the growth and mass requirements of supermarkets, it is not just the lives of some long-term residents which have changed dramatically, but also their personalities and mindsets. As well as realising two of his close friends no longer want to know him, Brendon soon discovers that the late Gareth’s widow, Caroline, has always had feelings for him and has no intention of her very recent loss standing in the way of making these known.
When DCI McKenna, a past associate enlists Brendon Gallagher help with investigating the suspicious deaths of four local residents, together with the unexplained accident which befell a successful visiting businessman and the murder of a person unknown, the relaxing and enjoyable holiday Brendon had anticipated, quickly turns into a trail of insatiable greed and incredulous, unforeseen horror. From the events which follow, he gradually learns it was not just the funeral which was responsible for his return.