When vicar Sarah Hussain is found murdered, the authorities wonder if someone objected to female clergy, her race, or if it was something more personal. Retired Chief Inspector Wexford is asked to consult on the case by his former colleague, Mike Burden. Wexford finds that it could be any of the three motives, but he's especially interested in Sarah's personal life after he discovers that her daughter, Clarissa, was to learn the identity of her father on her eighteenth birthday, which is coming up soon. Burden, however, believes that it is Sarah's job and/or race which provides the motive. Rendell then, at a leisurely pace, delves into the interpersonal relationships between a wide range of characters as we learn the killer's identity.