A young man, Simon Bright, is found dead in his World War Two Humber inside a hangar at Cooper's Cross Airfield. At first it looks like a suicide pact gone wrong - the car is full of exhaust fumes and there are two glasses and an empty bottle of champagne beside him.

Dr Bullard finds Simon had suffered a blow to the head with a blunt instrument before he died - but there's no sign of his girlfriend, pretty Laura Sharp, who arrived in Morton Fendle just a year ago. Barnaby and Jones start the hunt for Laura.

Frances Kirby, who found the body, is trapped in an unhappy marriage to Tony, a former pilot turned air-crash investigator who is desperate to give the police the benefit of his experience. Tony fancies himself as a ladies man, while Frances finds solace in the devoted friendship of Richard Budd, the village postmaster.

Laura was a lodger at the home of single parent Carol Prentice, who tells the detectives the missing girl owed her rent. She worked at the local pub, the Airman, and at the boarding kennels run by Marissa Clarke, while also claiming benefit. But Laura's childlike charm seems to give her a strange hold over the villagers and no-one wanted to turn her in for fraud.

The investigation leads Barnaby and Jones to a traditional dance school run by Elaine Trim, the self-styled matchmaker of Morton Fendle. With Joyce and Cully in tow, the detectives join villagers for an evening of jazz and swing, but the spectre of the Second World War looms large.

In the black of night, Rosemary Wood, Frances' confused aunt, is convinced she sees her long-lost brother Ralph returning home, years after he went missing in action &ldots; and Tony Kirby is stabbed to death.

Carol receives a mysterious phone call and rushes to the old airfield, hoping to find Laura. But the killer is waiting for her instead.