Pearl Nolan always wanted to be a detective, but life - and a teenage pregnancy - got in the way of a police career, and instead she built up a successful seafood restaurant in her coastal hometown of Whitstable - famous for its native oysters. Now, at 39, and with son Charlie away at university, Pearl finds herself suffering from empty nest syndrome...until she discovers the drowned body of local oyster fisherman Vinnie Rowe, weighted down with an anchor chain, on the eve of Whitstable's annual oyster festival.
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It's not the season of goodwill to all men.... The festive month is kicking off in style, and Pearl is rushed off her feet with her restaurant, The Whitstable Pearl. She's also busy planning her own family Christmas and providing mulled wine for a charity church fund-raiser when Christmas cards begin arriving all over town - filled with spiteful messages from an anonymous writer. Pearl's curiosity is piqued, but, having pledged not to take on a case at her detective agency before Christmas, she reluctantly agrees that Canterbury's DCI Mike McGuire should take over.
In the run up to May Day, Pearl's detective agency finds itself taking on a curious case: someone has been stealing underwear from washing lines. The victims, all local women with nothing in common other than a taste for fine underwear, have clubbed together to enlist Pearl's services since the local police seem unable to help.