Commander Dalgleish of Scotland Yard investigates the apparent murder of a well-known author who is found floating in a dinghy with his hands chopped off. The man, Maurice Seton, had recently been ejected from a private club when he was caught photographing some of its members at the gambling tables. The club had been under suspicion of laundering large amounts of cash and had been the object of a police investigation for some time. The case becomes more complex when the autopsy reveals that Seton died of natural causes and that his hands had been removed post-mortem. As the investigation continues, there appear to be no end to the number of people who would like to have seen Seton dead, including his brother Digby, who stands to inherit, and literary critic Oliver Latham who was perpetually in debt. In his personal life, Dalgleish's relationship with Deborah Riscoe comes to a crossroads when the investigation interferes with their private life.