If a blackmail letter drives a man to suicide, is the sender guilty of murder? "Yes," says Oliver Swithin, author of bestselling Finsbury the Ferret children's stories and amateur sleuth, who is on holiday in an ancient village.
A midnight streak with his naked girlfriend — Scotland Yard's Effie Strongitharm — abruptly ends in the discover of a corpse. Retired radio broadcaster Dennis Breedlove has hanged himself from the old gibbet. Evidence suggests blackmail may have driven the celebrity to suicide. Irresistibly intrigued, Oliver believes the dead man's secret will lead to the identity of the blackmailer. But in Britain today, when shame is a ticket to fame, why suicide? What if it wasn't?
When the mystery abruptly turns inside out, black-clad strangers attack Oliver in the night. The Vicar behaves strangely. So do the village's five unmarried Bennet sisters, a mysterious monk, the persistent, self-effacing Underwood Tooth, and Oliver's Uncle Tim, Effie's superior at the Yard and a part-time Shakespearean actor. Plus Oliver's aunt and his mother. Who else might play a role in This Private Plot? Two William Shakespeares?
It's time to put the laugh back into slaughter with the long-awaited third chapter in the career of Oliver Swithin. Yet under the clever wordplay and bawdy jokes lies an inventive and yes, scholarly plot.