Colonel Jerrod has just six months to live, but he needs a year if he is to save Brackton, the family estate, from crippling death duties. Then his ambitious son, Grant, has an idea, one that involves Colonel Jerrod's carefree brother, Philip, and which develops into a complicated fraud that, he hopes, will safeguard Brackton for future generations.
But there is a boating accident, in which Colonel Jerrod is believed drowned, and a visit at Brackton from the Inland Revenue to clear up some routine questions . . . Before long, Chief Inspector Poole finds himself drawn into the investigation with questions of his own.