It started as a student exercise, the knife under the drape, the model's pose chalked in place. But before Agatha Troy, artist and instructor, returns to the class, the pose has been re-enacted in earnest: the model is dead, fixed for ever in one of the most dramatic poses Troy has ever seen. It's a difficult case for Chief Detective Inspector Alleyn. How can he believe that the woman he loves is a murderess? And yet no one can be above suspicion.
When murder upsets the creative tranquility of an artists' colony, Scotland Yard sends in its most famous investigator. And what begins as a routine case turns out to be the most momentous of Roderick Alleyn's career. For before he can corner the killer, his heart is captured by one of the suspects, the flashing-eyed painter Agatha Troy, who has nothing but scorn for the art of detection.