Lorimer Black is an insurance loss adjuster working for a ruthless employer. He investigates fires and gets on the wrong side of policyholders who do not receive full payouts as a result of his decisions. He has a sleep disorder and regularly goes to a sleep clinic. He has a gypsy background and seems ashamed of his family, so has changed his name. He falls in love with a woman he first sees on tv and then in a cab.
Lorimer calls Flavia and makes a lunch date. He meets with Gale-Harlequin property developer director Jonathan Gale regarding a fire insurance claim which is refused because of arsen by sub-contractors. This leads to serious repercussions. Lorimar is promised a bonus and buys an ancient helmet which he later puts on and can't remove.
Lorimer organises retaliation for the violent assault on him with a baseball bat, but has he targeted the wrong person? Lorimer's relationship with his employer, George Hogg, deteriorates, but his involvement with Flavia intensifies.