The residents of Milton Cross – a feudal estate with a church, farms, houses and acres of land – depend on lord of the manor Edward Milton for their livelihoods. When Sonia Woodley is stabbed two years after the death of her abusive husband Gerald, Barnaby and Jones investigate – and the village starts to reveal its secrets.


It’s two years since Gerald Woodley, a bespoke tailor, suffered a fatal heart attack while tending his vegetable patch in the estate village of Milton Cross. At the village church, Rev Moreland offers Gerald’s anxious widow Sonia the chance to come to confession.


Joyce calls at Woodley & Woodley’s shop where Gerald’s brother Matthew tells her their lease is running out. Self-made man Morris Bingham implores estate owner Edward Milton not to boot them out. He’s the only villager whose livelihood doesn’t depend on Milton. Wayward teenager Gary Soper is caught about to steal some trainers but Milton, an avid church-goer, suggests strongly that the Woodleys give him a second chance.


Sonia visits Wendy Minchin and shows her a mysterious letter. Wendy is shocked at the contents. Meanwhile Gary’s mum Katie Soper drives to a deserted ice house in the middle of the woods, dressed to the nines.


Sonia returns to church the next evening, eager to ease her conscience. But she’s hit on the head and stabbed to death in the churchyard. Barnaby and Jones soon discover the power Milton holds over his village – and that Gerald was a monster. Matthew and Luke Woodley, Sonia’s grieving son, are worried that Sonia said too much.


Wendy tells Barnaby the ambulance took an hour and a half to arrive on the day Gerald died, convincing Jones that the Woodleys are guilty. Milton warns the police not to listen to gossip about Gerald – he left his widow a six figure sum that Luke and Matthew will now inherit.


Morris goes to confession and gives Rev Moreland an anonymous letter. Later that night someone violently slashes the vicar’s throat and ransacks his office. Morris reveals that it was Sonia who gave him the note.


Matthew admits he waited for Gerald to die before calling the ambulance and Sonia found the guilt impossible to bear. Meanwhile, Bullard discovers both victims were killed with tailor’s shears – and Gerald’s have vanished from the shop. But hidden in a secret pocket in the vicar’s new vestments is the letter. It seems to have been sent by an illicit rejected lover.


With Joyce’s help, Barnaby realises who took the shears and Wendy tells them who wrote the letter. The detectives head for the ice house to confront the murderer.