Dr. Victoria McClellan, Cambridge feminist biographer, is writing a life of the talented but tortured poet Lydia Brooke, five years after Brookes tragic suicide. As a student at Cambridge in the early sixties, Lydia emulated her namesake, the romantic Edwardian poet Rupert Brooke, who formed a nature-worshipping group called the Neo-Pagans.
Now living in Grantchester, the village near Cambridge where Rupert Brooke and his friends gathered for their Bohemian frolics, Vic McClellan finds herself immersed in Lydias past. One of the female pioneers of the confessional voice in poetry, Lydia survived a tumultuous marriage, brushes with madness, and early suicide attempts. But Vic discovers that the poet achieved a new creativity and balance in midlife, and she finds it increasingly difficult to accept that Lydia died by her own hand.
Why would she abandon her success in a final gesture of defeat? So, for the first time in twelve years, Vic calls her ex-husband, Superintendent Duncan Kincaid of Scotland Yard, to ask for his help in proving that Lydia was murdered. At first Duncan fears that Vic is too close to her enigmatic subject, that she simply does not want to believe that Lydia would take her own life.
But he cannot refuse her request, and when he begins to investigate, he finds aspects of the case that arouse his own suspicions. Duncans involvement with Vic and her son, Kit, complicates his fragile relationship with his partner and lover, Sergeant Gemma James. Then he receives some terrible news that will change his life forever.
As Duncan faces his greatest personal and professional challenge, he and Gemma embark on a quest for a murderer that will expose secrets that have reached out over thirty years and poisoned a dozen lives.