A woman is found murdered in a house along the coast from Brighton. Local detectives Fellows and Wilks lead an investigation methodically following up leads and clues mostly in Brighton and Hove but also further afield.
- A woman's dismembered body is found in a trunk in the garage of a rented house in Saltdean, a coastal resort about 5 miles from the large seaside town of Brighton, which is in the county of Sussex in England. The discovery is made by police after the lettings agent for the property reports a break-in at his premises and the theft of the lease for it. The tenancy was for one month, taken out by a man called John Campbell, which turns out to be a false name. Identifying the man who took out the lease is therefore one strand of the police inquiry. It eventually leads to a vacuum cleaner salesman who is believed to be posing as John Campbell but this turns out to be a red herring. Identifying the woman is another strand, beginning with the trunk, which bears a label indicating it was sent from Lewes (an inland town in Sussex) to Brighton by rail, with the initials of the owner, J.S., written on it. The inquiries lead to a woman whose initials are J.S. and who lives in Greenwich, London. Her house is adjacent to the mooring of the original Cutty Sark. Her address was discovered through an impression on a notepad in the rented house; the writing became legible by heating iodine in a metal spoon and holding the paper over the vapor. The police believed this J.S. to be the murdered woman but she is very much alive and just happens to have the same initials. What seems at first to be another red herring turns out to have substance; although she at first denies it, when she learns that there has been a murder, she confesses that she did meet the man who rented the holiday home and called himself John Campbell - they got talking on a train to Brighton and she ended up spending the night with him at the house in Saltdean. She tells D I Fellows that one of the rooms was locked - the one where it is believed the dead woman's body was before being transferred to the trunk. The dead woman's identity is eventually established through investigation into dental records. D I Fellows arrives at the identity of the killer through a process of elimination, although he keeps this knowledge to himself; instead, he arranges for key witnesses and the unwitting suspect to be brought together, to prove his theory. Proving that the death was murder rather than the accident the murderer claims it to have been is down to D S Wilks and hinges on the fact that events unfolded over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.