Pleasure, not happiness, is the highest good: the group who called themselves the Cyrenaics practised the principle until the death of one from an overdose and the apparent suicide of another. Sobered, the group went their several ways. One heads to Canada, another disappears and a third is believed to have committed suicide, at least until his body turns up two years later in the wreck of a car swept up on to the Solway mud flats. The murky relationships among the Cyrenaics, revived when they start returning for a party celebrating the Scottish Year of Homecoming, bring more pain and death. DI Marjory Fleming, called in to help another force with its murder enquiry, finds this, and the murder which follows on her own patch, obstructed by the unpleasant and resentful inspector she has been asked to direct, and DC Hepburn and DS Macdonald, still at loggerheads, don't make it any easier. Fleming's daughter has a new boyfriend to whom police are an anathema and though Cammie at last achieves his Scotland cap, he too is in trouble with the affairs of the heart.