Lynley and Helen arrive at Howenstowe, Lynley's estate in Cornwall, where his mother, Lady Asherton, lives. The purpose of their visit, of course, is to celebrate their engagement at Lynley's family home. However, it looks like Lynley would have been happier to be anywhere but Howenstowe. He avoids his mother and spends most of his time sulking, especially around Lady Asherton's close friend and lover, Dr. Trenarrow.
Friends and family begin to arrive for the engagement party - among them, DS Havers and Lynley's younger brother Peter. Peter is highly resentful of Lynley, and Lynley grows concerned when he finds out that Peter has relapsed into an old drug habit.
That evening, as the Lynleys and their guests return from a play at the village hall, they find out that Mick Cambrey, the son-in-law of Howenstowe estate manager John Penellin, has been beaten to death in his shop. Suspicion falls on Penellin, who was known to dislike his son-in-law. Lynley, however, suspects that Cambrey's death is connected with a much wider web of drug smuggling. Although he is not on the case, Lynley decides to get involved to help clear Penellin's name.
But Lynley soon learns that the evidence that can clear Penellin could also condemn Peter. Will Lynley have the courage to carry out justice at his brother's expense?
- Age-Appropriate Angst: Invoked. Lynley receives a What the Hell, Hero? from Helen for acting like "a tortured adolescent" about his mother's infidelity to his dying father over a decade ago.
- Aloof Older Brother: Lynley has been one to Peter since he left home. He tries desperately to make up for it in this episode, now that Peter is in deep trouble.
- Asshole Victim: Mick Cambrey.
- Big Fancy House: Howenstowe. Barbara finds herself a bit discomfited by the splendor. The way a mouse finds itself discomfited by a cat trying to eat it.
- Big "NO!": Lady Asherton at the end when Lynley breaks the bad news to her.
- Busman's Holiday: Lynley is not on duty and in fact is not even in London. He still manages to find a case. Helen's response is to whine and complain about this. Barbara's is to immediately start bouncing case theories off him. This is important.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Sidney and her annoying journalism - she snaps photographs of Cambrey's dead body in the presence of his widow and despite Lynley's telling her to stop. Later, the photographs reveal a crucial detail about how the crime scene was surreptitiously altered by the murderer.
- Clear Their Name: The reason why Lynley begins investigating is to clear John Penellin's name.
- The Confidant: Barbara serves as this to Lynley for the first time. It won't be the last.
- Conflicting Loyalty:
- Lynley keeps begging Havers for more time before reporting that his brother Peter was the last man to see Cambrey alive.
- At the end, Lynley can't bring himself to ring DI Boscawen to report Trenarrow's confession, because he knows it will break his mother's heart.
- Depraved Transsexual: Mick Cambrey steals and re-sells an experimental cancer drug, condemning who knows how many patients to death (especially since they're not getting any other treatment, because they think they're getting the drug), in order to pay for a sex change.
- Dysfunctional Family: The Lynleys. Lynley can't forgive his mother for her unfaithfulness to his dying father. His brother can't forgive him for abandoning them. And Lady Asherton can't reconcile the brothers.
- First-Name Basis: Subverted. Lynley tries to persuade Havers to call him "Tommy" or "Thomas" as long as they stay at Howenstowe. Her response is a reasonably polite variant of "Oh, hell no," and she avoids addressing him directly for the rest of their stay.
- Irony: Cambrey started stealing and bootlegging the experimental cancer treatment in order to pay for a sex change. However, given his general criminal and sociopathic behaviour, he might very well have been refused a sex change anyway, on psychiatric grounds
- Inelegant Blubbering: Lynley, at the Downer Ending.
- Mistaken for Servant: Havers is initially mistaken by Lady Asherton as the florist.
- Murder by Mistake: Peter was Brooke's intended victim, not Sasha.
- Nice to the Waiter: As if there weren't already enough indications that Lynley is a Nice Guy despite his Blue Blood, we see him here taking a genuine interest in the lives of his servants, including John, the estate manager, and his daughter, Nancy.
- Parental Substitute: Dr. Trenarrow is one to Peter.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Peter delivers one as part of his "toast" to Lynley at Lynley and Helen's engagement dinner.
- Scenery Porn: Cornwall is very pretty. The cinematographer wants you to know it.
- Self-Disposing Villain: Dr. Trenarrow.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Averted. Poor Havers looks rather uncomfortable in her evening dress.
- Stylistic Suck: The performance of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest at the village hall, which everyone but Lynley seems to enjoy In-Universe.
- Tearful Smile: Lynley's expression when he walks away after accepting that he has been childish and asking his mother to marry Trenarrow the next time he asks. A massive Tearjerker in hindsight when we realise that after all these years, Lynley's approval came too late.
- To Be Lawful or Good: Dr. Trenarrow chose to be the latter.
- Vengeance Feels Empty: Invoked by Lynley at the end.Dr. Trenarrow: Well, you must be rather enjoying this, Tommy. After all this time, my downfall.Lynley: [quietly] No. As a matter of fact I'm not.
- Wall Slump: Lynley does this just after insisting to Havers that he's fine.
- What Does She See in Him?: Nancy Cambrey loves a man who not only deals drugs and wastes their mony, forcing Nancy to work long hours to make ends meet, but is also a peddler of fake cancer cure, who couldn't care less about whether patients live or die.
- actually, the experimental cancer drug worked. That's why Trenarrow killed Cambrey; his patients who he gave the experimental drug to were dying, because Cambrey was stealing the drug, and substituting saline solution to cover his tracks.