Series: Timothy Herring Series Written as Malcolm Torrie
Timothy Herring and wife Alison are scouting locations for a Mr. Glanvilliers Ryanston, a movie producer. On his list of sites wanted are a castle, a church, a stone bridge, a folly, and a manor house. Timothy thinks he can fill some or all of the requests through negotiations with the eccentric Leigh-Fifields. Annabel Leigh, a young woman and ex-student of Alison's, is the chosen representative as dour Aunt Wulfilda, batty Aunt Waltruda, and benign Uncle Ordulf prove less approachable. The family also seems a bit preoccupied, as Timothy spots them carrying out a curiously abridged Black Mass and paying tribute to a plaster bust of a chap named Erik.
Negotiations barely get underway before more strange things occur: the bricked-up entry to Castell Foel is secretly demolished; a reclining skeleton on a kitchen floor is glimpsed through a window; a borzoi goes missing; moods change and talks stall. Staying with the school headmistress, Alison's old employer Miss Pomfret-Brown, news comes in that one of the students, a girl named Jennifer Purlieu, has disappeared. As she is cousin to Annabel Leigh--and as Annabel managed to visit the school moments before Jennifer vanished--Timothy decides to hunt for the girl. Knowing there's a priest's hole built in to Fivefield Hall, he sets out with purpose. There is indeed a body in the hiding place, but it belongs to someone much older than Jennifer.