A man drowns. Another dies in a motorbike crash.
Two accidents ... yet in a pair of so-called Dialogues sent to the Mid-Yorkshire Gazette, apparently as entries in a short story competition, someone seems to be claiming responsibility for the deaths.
It sounds like a tall tale to most of Mid-Yorkshire CID.
And even Hat Bowler, the young DC who first gets
hold of the story, only pretends to take it seriously in order to get closer to the girl of his dreams, librarian Raina Pomona.
But when a third indisputable murder takes place, Dalziel and Pascoe find themselves playing a game no-one knows the rules of, against an opponent known only as the Wordman.
Dialogue follows Dialogue and funeral follows funeral as Pascoe and the Fat Man unravel the Wordman's riddle.
There are enough clues to weave a tapestry, but just who has the upper hand in this deadly word-game?