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On the north coast of Cornwall, four young women, out boating on the River Camel, see a young man alone in another boat that appears to be sinking. In the commotion of the rescue, Harry Saunders, the local banker's son, is gravely injured. A witness to the event, an upstanding local farmer, accuses the women of attempted murder. Taken into custody, they are placed under house arrest. When Scotland Yard is asked to review the case, a very reluctant Ian Rutledge is sent to Padstow--too near the scene of another case whose tragic end still haunts him.
When Rutledge arrives, he is informed that the investigation is all but closed. With the victim in a coma, there is no one to refute the accusations of the witness. But Rutledge must still determine whether the women harmed the young man--and what may have motivated them. His inquiry takes an unexpected personal turn when he discovers that one of the accused is none other than the attractive, levelheaded cousin of the woman he intended to marry in 1914. Then another person is savagely attacked--but with the suspects in custody, why hasn't the killing stopped?
With no shred of evidence to clear the young women, Rutledge must delve deep into the darkest secrets of a wild, beautiful, and dangerous place if he is to find a killer who may--or may not--hold the key to their fate.