orthright, drink-loving Inspector Vera Stanhope and her young sergeant Joe Ashworth investigate when 15-year-old Luke Armstrong is strangled and placed in a bath strewn with flowers and candles. Luke's widowed mother Julie tells them that Luke's friend Tommy accidentally drowned some months earlier and initial suspicion falls on Tommy's father. But then teacher Lily Marsh is murdered, also throttled and dumped on a beach, surrounded by flowers. The body is found by a group of botanists, including husband and wife Peter and Felicity Calvert, into whose beach house Lily was due to move, and Gary Wright, a womanising friend of Julie. Lily had a sugar daddy who paid money into her account and Vera learns that Tommy had photographed her with this man and had drowned trying to save his camera when it fell into the sea. She deduces that he is rubbing out evidence of the affair and believes the lover to be Peter Calvert. But was he the killer and, if not, was it a member of his adoring coterie?

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