A hit-and-run driver ends the life of Lou Langley, octogenarian millionaire and lawn freak, as he is mowing the verge beside his luxurious beachfront home in Dunehampton, New York. With $150 million at stake and several potential beneficiaries, the local police suspect foul play. But a routine murder investigation is deemed inappropriate: The Langley case requires tact, cunning, and perfect manners. An appeal is made to Scotland Yard to dispatch a policeman to work undercover at Ahoy, the Langley family's palatial summer residence.
Enter Sydney Jarvis - a.k.a. Chief Inspector Henry Peckover, Bard of the Yard; not, perhaps, the most obvious candidate for the job of butler to the idle rich. While Jarvis is thrown headlong into his new duties, pouring drinks, serving dinner, and perfecting a suitable accent, the killer is choosing another victim.
The discovery of a second corpse is soon followed by the disappearance of two key suspects - the family's Dutch cook, Joop, and Ahoy's caretaker, Timothy Thwaite. With the household descending rapidly into chaos, Peckover sends for urgent undercover assistance. But the arrival of Detective Constable Jason Twitty coincides with hurricane season in Dunehampton, and as Peckover prepares to confront the killer, Hurricane Doris prepares to strike.