The Kemps are a Cornish Catholic family who have held onto Kellycoryk, their family home, for almost five hundred years. But it is beginning to look as though the present century could be their last. Roger, head of the shrinking clan, is desperate to save the house and land. His second marriage to the shrewd and tough businesswoman, Bridget, offers a way out. Bridget wants to take Kellycoryk over for development and although Roger hates the idea, Bridget refuses to save the estate in any other way.
Then - suddenly - Bridget disappears and old memories begin to be raked over. Hadn't Julia, Roger's first wife (also a wealthy woman) disappeared mysteriously, presumably in a boating accident? Does Roger, his sister and his disturbed children know more about the past than they let on?
Wycliffe, recuperating from an illness, finds the Kemp case much too intriguing to ignore.