Inspector Morse has a mysterious connection to murder victim Yvonne Harrison, who is found battered to death and handcuffed naked to her bed. Chief Superintendent Strange puts Sergeant Lewis in charge of the investigation, but Morse anticipates his colleague's every move. It becomes clear that Yvonne had many admirers. One is Sir Lionel Phelps, a surgeon and choral singer who is now wooing Yvonne's daughter, Dr. Sandra Harrison. Another is John Barron, known to be a workman for Yvonne -- but he is soon knocked off a ladder to his death. Also permanently silenced are small-time burglar Harry Repp and cab driver Paddy Flynn. Morse surmises the killer is one of the surviving Harrisons: Yvonne's husband, Frank; son, Simon; or daughter, Sandra. It's a complicated mess that Morse and Lewis would normally unravel at the pub over a few pints -- ale for Morse, orange juice for Lewis. But now it is Morse's body that is unraveling. Years of abuse have left him a wreck.