What should MI5 do when a retired researcher from one of its highly secret development centres is killed by cobra venom at a chess and bridge evening held in rural Oxfordshire? The guests for that evening included a scientist who works at the centre, his wife, who is a marketing manager, an estate agent, a retired teacher and a post-graduate researcher who has worked at the centre before.
MI5 is concerned its own research has been compromised and used for the murder, but it does not want any information on this to get out. It cannot ignore recent events at the centre, which were a fatal explosion and fire and a recent break-in where cobra venom was stolen.
A trusted, independent detective is required, so it again asks, via its NATO contacts, for Norwegian DI, Sven Ffolkes, whom it has used before, with great success. Ffolkes returns to Oxfordshire, posing as an inspector from the Metropolitan Police bought in to cover a shortfall in manpower. He meets up again with Hannah Chapman, who was his driver on his previous case. Working with Chapman, who is now a detective constable, he finds all his suspects had opportunity, some had motive and others had means, but any with all three eludes him, until he sharpens his thinking.
Ffolkes also has a personal agenda. He is hoping to meet up again with Dr Mary Fielding, a phycologist with whom he had a romantic encounter on his previous visit that left a lasting impression on him. But nothing is as he had thought, causing him to wonder what will happen next and whom he can trust.
Cover Artwork by Heather Bentley