Could I be happier about my impending fatherhood?
Havers: You haven't heard the news, then?
Lynley: You've been assigned to the case?
Havers: Yeah. Oh, and I've...been reinstated.
Lynley: Oh, Havers, that is...!
Havers is reinstated as detective sergeant by DSI Hillier,note
meaning Lynley has his partner back at last, to his tremendous relief. They are assigned to the case of the apparent suicide but probable murder of Morag McNicholl, who was found at home with both wrists cut. Morag McNicholl worked for Crucible Club, an elite society chaired by Jemma Sanderson, the wife of well-known philanthropist Nigel Sanderson. When Havers finds out from journalist Red McGuire that people connected with Nigel Sanderson have died suspicious deaths in the past, she takes an undercover job as secretary to the Crucible Club to find out information.
Lynley, in the meantime, focuses his line of enquiry on Daniel Brooks, a young man who was the biological son of Morag McNicholl, but who was sold at birth by Morag to a childless couple for £30,000. Daniel had recently been trying to get into touch with Morag before her death. Also somehow connected with the case is Shelly Gibson, a young waitress at a cafe, who was seen entering Morag's flat on the evening of her death.
As Lynley and Havers try to put the pieces of the puzzle together, more people connected with the case start dying. In the meantime, Helen tries to get Lynley to confide in her about why he is dreading the prospect of becoming a father.
- Big Damn Heroes: The way Lynley manages to soothe Shelly Gibson and talk her out of killing herself — all the while standing at the edge of a parapet — is nothing short of a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- The Confidant: Once again, Lynley turns to Havers for support and advice about his progressively worsening personal life.
- Cover Identity Anomaly: Havers' undercover name is Patricia Brady. She plays the role of Girl Next Door secretary brilliantly, even taking care to throw in a charming smile whenever spoken to. On one occasion, however, she fails to respond to the name "Patricia," even though she, Jemma and Lynley are the only three people in the room.
- Freudian Excuse: Lynley at last fesses up to Helen about why he is so ambivalent about fatherhood — he is worried that he will fail to carry out his duties to his family just as he failed in his duty to his mother and younger brother after his father's death. Helen's response is one of the few sympathetic moments that her character has during Lesley Vickerage's portrayal.
- Intrepid Reporter: Red McGuire. Despite Havers' repeated warnings to let the professionals handle a powerful crook like Sanderson, he insists on Going for the Big Scoop himself. It doesn't end well for him.
- Maternally Challenged:
- Morag McNicholl was sufficiently unmaternal to sell her baby to the Brooks (and even bargain to get an extra £10,000 above the £20,000 they had agreed to).
- Subverted with Shelly Gibson, who changed her mind about selling her baby once she became a mother.
- Talking Down the Suicidal: Lynley does this successfully with Shelly Gibson as she stands on the edge of a parapet holding her baby.
- We Do Not Know Each Other: When Lynley arrives at the Crucible Club reception, Havers sets the tone for their interaction with a very charming but utterly impersonal "May I help you, sir?"
- Wisdom from the Gutter: In the end, Lynley learns a valuable lesson about fatherhood from a very unlikely person. He takes it to heart.