Amidst Commemoration night festivities at Beaufort College in Oxford, chaos erupts twice — the first time during the playing of a prank using Professor Benchley's newly acquired mummy, the late King Pepy I, and the second time when a fire consumes the Bursary, coincidentally the building where Benchley resides. This combination of events results in a mystery — the disappearance of either Benchley or the mummy. Despite the coroner's ruling of accidental death for the professor, only one corpse is recovered among the ashes at the scene. Professors Sargent and Considine cannot let the matter rest with this verdict and go sleuthing, using all the scholarly know-how of their academic specialties, and they find themselves entangled in a web of very unusual circumstances.
This story of murder at the University of Oxford, written with a skill and humor rarely found in mystery stories and saturated with the ceremonious atmosphere and old-world tradition of Oxford, will thrill and satisfy the most jaded and exacting reader. Professor Benchley, university don and famous Egyptologist, has just purchased an invaluable Mummy — that of King Pepi I. A fire of mysterious origin breaks out in his apartments and when the gutted rooms are searched, only an unidentifiable body is found. Is it that of the professor or that of the mummy? In either case, what has become of the other body?
Two Junior Fellows of the College set out to solve the problem. They follow an increasingly sinister trail, which included such clues as wigs, a pipe, and an alarm clock. But not until the final chapter do they, or the reader, get an inkling of the solution, which is as strange as it is unexpected.