Winifred Eagle and Birdie Peacock are preparing for the opening of their new bookshop, which will specialize in crime fiction. So perhaps they are extra-sensitive to the mystery that is currently dominating local news - the disappearance of two local women.
They would be even more disturbed if they knew what Chief Superintendent Charmian Daniels now knows - four other women have gone missing, and with every disappearance, the local police have received a letter containing the victim's name and one of her possessions.
To take her mind off the increasingly worrying case, Charmian attends the launch of her friends' bookshop. But a gruesome discovery is made in the shop's garden - a stone coffin and two bodies. One body has been in the ground for centuries. But the second body, that of a woman, is much fresher . . .
Jennie Melville, a pseudonym for Gwendoline Butler, was born and brought up in south London, and was one of the most universally praised of English mystery authors. She wrote over fifty novels under both names. Educated at Haberdashers, she read history at Oxford, and later married Dr Lionel Butler, Principal of Royal Holloway College. She had one daughter, who survives her.
Gwendoline Butler's crime novels are hugely popular in both Britain and the United States, and her many awards included the Crime Writers' Association's Silver Dagger. She was also selected as being one of the top two hundred crime writers in the world by The Times.