It is mid-October and unexpectedly cold in Ballynagh, the small Irish village that Torrey Tunet, the young American translator and sometime amateur sleuth, calls home. She has just built a fire of peat and coal to warm her cottage when a window frame collapses, letting in drafts of icy air. Asking around for the services of a carpenter, she hires local teenager Dakin Cameron to do a few repairs.
Dakin is an unusually helpful and likable young man with something on his mind. When he receives a threatening phone call at the cottage, Torrey resolves to try to help him. It seems that Dakin is the son of Natalie Sylvester Cameron, a beautiful heiress whose husband died tragically two years before. Dakin is distressed because someone is trying to blackmail Natalie-and even more distressed when the blackmail attempts lead to a case of murder.
At times like these, Torrey gets what her friend Winifred calls a "dragon-slaying look" in her eyes. Determined to uncover the truth no matter what the cost-including the ongoing enmity of the local police inspector--Torrey Tunet must call upon all of her wits and courage to solve the latest Ballynagh mystery.