Consular officer Meredith Mitchell has returned to England after a long spell working abroad. She has come back to attend the wedding of her god-daughter, Sara. Sara's mother is Meredith's cousin, Eve Owens. Eve is an actress with a career in films, now over, and a future in television soap operas. But Eve is troubled, and not only about her faltering career. She is worried about her daughter. Sara, in her turn, is worried about her mother. There is a young artist neighbour, Philip Lorrimer, who would appear to be nothing but trouble.

 Even Philip's two Siamese cats cause trouble to his neighbours, in particular to old Bert Yewell, who blames the cats for damage in his garden and loss of his seedlings. Bert vows vengeance... and someone hates the Owens family,leaving sinister messages and grisly gifts at the gates.The scene is set for murder.

 

Meredith Mitchell is spending Christmas in the Cotswolds. She has got to know a new neighbour, Harriet Needham.

 

However,  before long Harriet is involved in a shocking - and fatal - accident at the Boxing Day Meet.

 

But is this 'accident' really a carefully planned murder? Meredith suspects that it is. There were plenty of witnesses and several suspects. Motives, too. Harriet's private life was rather chaotic. At first Chief Inspector Alan Markby is reluctant to accept with Meredith's theory, but then he begins to agree that she does have a case... and that the police have a case to investigate, too!

 

 

Around Bamford, land that was for generations dedicated to farming is slowly being covered over in a relentless tide of brick. Chief Inspector Alan Markby is saddened by this as he remembers a happy childhood in the area. Landmarks are now being erased and with them a direct link to his early memories. But Meredith Mitchell is due to arrive shortly and so he is looking forward to seeing her again.

 

But in a policeman's life anything can happen and, at a moment's notice, ruin personal plans. There is a problem at the latest building site. Newly laid foundations are not up to specification and have to be redone. When the digger driver is scooping out the still fresh concrete, he scoops out something else as well: a dead body. Someone, who didn't count on the work being disturbed, has taken the opportunity to dispose of a murder victim. But who is the dead man? And who sought to lay him in a concrete grave?

The Society for the Preservation of Historic Bamford is up in arms. Local landmark, Springwood Hall, has been turned into a smart Cotswold country house hotel. The Society, under the leadership of the redoubtable Hope Mapple, plans to disrupt the gala opening.

 

Also unhappy at the imminent arrival of wealthy visitors to the hotel is young Zoe Foster, who struggles to run the Alice Batt Rest Home for Horses and Donkeys on land adjacent to the hotel and owned by it. The new owner won't want his guests gazing at Zoe's elderly equine residents. 

 

As things turn out, the gala event, attended by both Alan Markby and Meredith Mitchell, is disrupted by something far more shocking than anything planned by Hope. There is a knife missing from the hotel kitchens and a body in the wine cellar...

A site of archaeological interest has attracted two sets of visitors, with very different views on what should be done there. A band of archaeologists is keen on excavating what they believe may be the burial place of Wulfric the Saxon. The other group consists of New Age travellers who want to camp there.  

The police are called upon to mediate. But soon their job turns much more serious. Some of the travellers, foraging on a local rubbish dump for anything usuable, discover a rolled carpet. And the carpet holds a dreadful secret. 

 

Among the archaeologists there are personal tensions. The wife of one of them has disappeared. But has he had a hand in her disappearance?  

Alan Markby, investigating, has to find out. Meredith Mitchell has her own reasons for taking an interest and carrying out her own enquiries.

In the grounds of Park House there is a mortuary chapel for the dead of the once wealthy owners, the Devaux family. The last of the Devaux, Adeline, still lives at Park House with her husband, Matthew Conway, who has turned half of the premises into a an office suite from which he runs his business. Other people live in the house. Their young daughter, Katie, the family housekeeper cum nurse for Adeline, and Matthew's attractive secretary. 

The family mausoleum is, of course, long disused, so why should old Barney Crouch, rolling home from the pub and passing by it, hear strange and spooky sounds from within? 

 

Soon two young girls are dead and Mitchell and Markby must investigate.

Alan Markby's divorced wife makes a surprise appearance at, of all places, the Chelsea Flower Show. Alan and Meredith are visiting the show and, as if meeting up with Rachel were not embarrassment enough, it turns out that Alan's one-time wife and Meredith were once at school together. 

 

Rachel has been living with her new husband, Alex Constantine, in Malefis Abbey. However, Alex is murdered, apparently at the flower show. Rachel asks her former schoolfriend to support her in her grief and during police investigations. But when Meredith arrives at Malefis Abbey she finds it is a very odd place indeed. Nobody seems to be telling the whole truth.  And who would have expected to discover a human corpse in an aviary?

One might expect to find bones in a churchyard, if one went digging there, but still the Lowe brothers, grave-diggers to the parish, don't expect to find a skull just below the surface in a grave last used some thirty years earlier. And things do turn up unexpectedly from time to time in the church of All Saints.  For example, a few years previously the then rector discovered a solitary candle burning on the altar, with a black cloth and scattered flowers. That had never been explained. Nor had the disappearance of Kimberley Oates ever been satisfactorily explained. Is she dead, or alive, or is that her skull in someone else's grave?

 

 

Mitchell and Markby must dig up the truth.

Meredith Mitchell is recovering from flu. Mrs Harmer, the vicar's housekeeper, has kindly agreed to 'look after' her. The result is that the house stinks of boiled fish, baked milky rice and Oxo drink. What Meredith really needs is a mystery to solve and that isn't long in coming a long. Who would send a parcel bomb to researcher Dr Liam Caswell? Who would wish to harm his elderly neighbour? Moreover, local animal rights protesters have been out in force at a battery chicken egg farm. One of them found her foam rubber yellow chicken suit rather hot, so, after the demonstration, took it off and hid it behind a hedge. But someone found and stole it. Just a prank? Or something more sinister? 

 

It may be nearly Christmas but not everyone's mind is on seasonal cheer. Someone's thoughts are on murder. But who is to be the victim?

Wynne Carter has retired from journalism but she still has a nose for a story - especially a mystery. Alan Markby and Meredith Mitchell are house-hunting and their search has brought them to Parsloe St John and the former residence of Olivia Smeaton. Parsloe St John appeared a picture postcard perfect village, but its imperfections are only just below the surface. Moreover, Wynne has her doubts about the death of Mrs Smeaton. Over a glass or two of blackberry wine she explains her concerns to the visitors. Next there is an undoubted murder. A local oddjobman is the victim and there us no doubt about the viciousness of his slaying. 

 

So where did it all start? And was Mrs Smeaton herself something of a mystery woman?

 

Two kind Samaritans give lifts to a young girl hitch-hiking her way towards Bamford. Both of them, a lorry-driver and Meredith Mitchell, are left with an uneasy feeling that they helped import some form of danger into the community. Andrew Penhallow is keenly aware the girl is a danger. Her knock at his kitchen door on a dark evening could turn his family life and his marriage upsidedown. Penhallow, a Brussels-based lawyer, has secrets and they are about to come tumbling out of the cupboard like the proverbial skeleton. His mind full of this, Penhallow doesn't consider there might be a more dangerous threat to him. Someone might want him dead.

Tammy Franklin's mother has died. Her father, Hugh, is busy on the farm has little time to spend with her. She is being bullied at school. Her teacher, Jane Brady, takes a well-meant interest but it is not easy to help an unhappy child.

 

Hugh has remarried, prompted by a desire to replace a wife and give his young daughter a new mother. He has not made a good choice. The new Mrs Franklin is not the motherly sort. Nor is she a suitable wife for a farmer. Now Ellen Franklin has gone missing and gypsy Danny Smith has arrived to tell Hugh he has discovered her body on a railway embankment.  Earlier, sitting in a train that has made a temporary halt by that same embankment, Meredith Mitchell has noticed a child's backpack in the shape of a large green frog, hanging from a branch. The backpack is Tammy's. How did it get there?                                        

Within the Oakley family, murder has repeated itself. In 1889 Cora Oakley was murdered.  Her husband, William, was accused of the crime, but acquitted. His reputation in ruins, Oakley fled the country and was not heard of again. Now, in modern times, 1999, a young man has arrived at the famiiy home, claiming to be his descendant. William remarried, unknown to all, and had a new family. The two elderly sisters who are the only remaining descendants from his original marriage to his wife, Cora, are appalled and afraid. The Oakleys, they reflect, have always had really rotten luck.  

 

The bad luck now takes the form of another murder for Alan Markby to investigate with the help of Meredith Mitchell.

Guy Morgan, on a walking holiday, has stumbled across a few old bones in woodland, at the entrance to an abandoned earth. Guy is a doctor by profession and recognises them as human bones. An enquiry is set in progress and, as it begins to reveal unexpected old truths, it becomes dangerous to someone still alive. A murder follows. For Alan Markby, all of this is particularly unsettling because it leads to the reoopening of an old, unsolved case, that of the Potato Man, a rapist who was never indentified.

 

Meredith Mitchell is still house-hunting. Together with Alan, she visits a former rectory on the market and in need, as they say, of some work. The rectory isn't suitable, but it does have a link with a long ago crime and a modern one.

 

Meredith Mitchell is delighted to see an old friend and colleague, Toby Smythe. But Toby has come to see her with a problem. A relative, Alison Jenner, has been receiving hate mail. Twenty-five years earlier, Alison stood trial for the murder of her aunt, and was acquitted. Since then Alison has remarried and no one, in theory, ought to know about this dark episode in her past. But someone does and that someone is out to cause trouble.

 

Alan Markby is at first unwilling to be dragged in. He is less happy about Toby's arrival on the scene than Meredith is! But then matters turn to murder. Markby must investigate together with a new member of his team, Jessica Campbell, with the enthusiastic assistance of Meredith and Toby.