CI Barnaby and DS Jones investigate the murder of Nick Chaney, the director of a low-budget film about the French Revolution and the Scarlet Pimpernel, being filmed at Magna Manor. He is found on his film set having been decapitated in the guillotine. Chaney was found by Jed Norris, who had only recently been hired to work as a security guard by the film's tight-fisted producer, Jack Braxton. Chaney had also had a run-in with Danny Twyman who operates a local taxi service and who wanted Chaney to stay away from his girlfriend, Leonie Charteris. That Chaney fathered her child is a complicating factor. The owners of Magma Manor, Leonie's parents Terence and Diane Charteris, have spent a great deal of money on the Manor and very much want to maximize any possible returns. Then there's Raymond Clandillon, a past his prime actor who is prone to drink and to whom Chaney would only offer a position as an extra. Then there are Gwen Morrison and Neville Hayward who definitely had a history with the dead director. There will be a second guillotining however before Barnaby can identify the killer and the motive behind the deed.

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