Sheila Malory receives a letter from her cousin Hilda warning her to expect a visit by their mutual cousin, Bernard Prior. Bernard is an obnoxious man Sheila has always tried to avoid. Hazel ordered Bernard away, but he didn’t listen and returned to ask for more information and any photographs she has of their shared family relatives. Now that Bernard has retired from his job as a headmaster at a private school in Bristol, he’s taken up the hobby of genealogy. Sheila does her best to avoid them, but Bernard and his mousey wife, Janet, corner her, and he drones on about family history Sheila doesn’t care about. He questions her about facts she doesn’t know and never has. Bernard borrows the photographs to copy from Sheila. She provides them and what information she can in exchange for Bernard giving a talk on genealogy at her next “over-sixties” meeting. It’s a result of this talk that Sheila learns Bernard was involved in a scandal before he left the private school.When Janet returns the photos and other documents to Sheila, Sheila realizes that Janet is really a very nice woman, who has been beaten down by Bernard. Sheila offers to drive Janet back to the cottage she and Bernard are renting while they travel around the area doing his family research. When Janet invites Sheila in, they discover Bernard dead, his head bashed in.
The police inquiry into the case reveals that Bernard didn’t die from the injury to his head; rather he had already died from a heart attack before the beating. The police advise Sheila that the break-in appeared a little to staged, someone tried to murder Bernard, but since Bernard was already dead, they do not plan to do any sort of investigation into the burglary, especially since nothing was taken.This leaves Sheila wondering who might have had a motive to murder Bernard. Could it be his obnoxious personality that made someone desperate, or did he uncover something in his family research that a relative didn’t want revealed? Sheila investigates her family’s past and learns about a young man who was left out of his father’s will, another young man who married a girl he met in the war, who the family never met because the man died soon afterward on the battlefield. Or could the attempted murder have something to do with the scandal at Bernard’s old school. When Janet is run off the road and badly hurt, Sheila determines to do everything she can to find out the murderer’s identity.