A New Year's Eve costume ball at an Oxford hotel ends unhappily when the grand prize winner is found murdered in his bed in the hotel annex the next day. Complicating matters is the fact that most of the guests and the staff as well imbibed rather heavily at the party and their memories of the evening aren't all that an investigator might wish. And further complicating matters is that the other five guests who were staying in the hotel annex, including the victim's wife, have all fled the scene, leaving behind only the registration cards on which they filled out their false names and addresses.
Not to worry. Chief Inspector Morse of the Oxford Homicide Division will get it all sorted out eventually. First, of course, there's the matter of identifying the unfortunate victim. Then Morse and his faithful sidekick, Sergeant Lewis, will have to wade through the complicated marital and extra-marital relationships of the three couples who were staying in the annex that night. It's a pretty complicated affair, with little evidence to go on. But Morse's keen intelligence eventually focuses in on the critical clues and the only remaining question is whether or not he can trap the killer before he or she evades his grasp once and for all.
This is the seventh entry in Colin Dexter's popular series and by now the characters and the relationships among them are very well established. Picking up one of these books is like falling instantly back into pleasant company. The mystery itself becomes almost secondary; the pleasure in these books derives from watching Morse and Lewis at work, and fans of the series will certainly enjoy this entry.