"One tug on the old school tie and you come running, eh, sir?"
Thomas Lynley: I wanted you here because you'll come to the school with fresh eyes - without prejudice.
Barbara Havers: Without prejudice? Apart from my opinion that a system which dumps kids with relative strangers is fundamentally rotten?
Twelve-year-old Matthew Whateley, a pupil at the prestigious boys' school Bredgar Hall, is found dead and mutilated in a cemetery. Lynley, who went to Eton with one of Bredgar Hall's housemasters, decides to take Havers along to investigate, since she can look at the institution with fresh eyes. As they probe into the truth, the school's respectable facade of "proper" British upbringing begins to crumble to reveal a subculture of blackmail and oppression, of which Matthew isn't the only victim.
- Adults Are Useless: Several schoolmasters in Bredgar Hall fit this trope to a T; for example, Lockwood, the headmaster, is much more concerned about preserving the school's reputation than he is with helping to find Matthew Whateley's killers.
- The Atoner: Cowfrey Pitt sponsored Matthew Whateley to make up for having driven Matthew's biological father to suicide.
- Beleaguered Childhood Friend: John Corntel is in considerable danger of being a victim of Pædo Hunt, thanks to his house prefect's insinuation that All Gays Are Paedophiles.
- The Cast Showoff: Hardly obnoxious, but Lynley is shown riding dressage in this episode. Nathaniel Parker is an equine enthusiast and amateur equestrian in real life.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: The reason why Matthew Whateley's body was mutilated. The killers knew that it would divert the investigation from the school if it seemed like a ritualistic killing.
- Depraved Homosexual: Corntel fears that this is how he is perceived by everyone, including his old friend Lynley.
- Diabolical Mastermind: Subverted with Clive Pritchard. He believed himself to be this, but as it turns out, he wasn't the only one pulling the strings.
- Driven to Suicide: Chas Quilter.
- Homoerotic Subtext: Brian's feelings for Chas seem borderline romantic. This explains Brian's part in Matthew's murder.
- Kids Are Cruel: The Bredgar Hall boys range from children to young adults, and yet some of them are capable of deeds no less shocking than the works of the most depraved criminals.
- Love Makes You Evil: Why else would a nice, bright kid like Brian Byrne commit murder?
- Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Matthew Whateley.
- Meaningful Name: Erebus, the name of the house under Corntel's supervision. It's "the primal darkness that emerged after chaos."
- Pædo Hunt: A boys' school and a gay housemaster. 'Nuff said.
- Pastimes Prove Personality: Lynley is shown riding dressage in this episode. There is no more stereotypically "snooty", aristocratic sport than English riding, and especially dressage.
- Princely Young Man: Chas Quilter, Head Boy.
- Scholarship Student: Matthew Whateley was one — meaning that he was not only a Stranger in a Strange School but also too smart to blindly put up with "accepted" norms. This proved to be a fatal combination.
- Teacher/Student Romance: The reason John Corntel was being blackmailed. In reality, he waited until the student left school, but there was no evidence to prove this.
- You Called Me X, It Must Be Serious: For the first time, we hear Lynley call Havers "Barbara" when her father passes away. This will become something of a hallmark of their most poignant moments together.