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Twenty-two year old Cordelia Gray arrives at work to find that her boss, Bernie Pryde, has killed himself. In his note, he says that he learned he had cancer and decided to "take the easy way out" (by slitting his wrist); in addition, he has left her his private investigator business, of which she was recently made a partner. Soon after, Cordelia is visited by a Miss Leaming, who has come to hire Bernie on behalf of her boss, Sir Ronald Callender. Cordelia goes to Cambridge with Miss Leaming to see if Callendar would be willing to hire her instead. He is, and Callender employs Cordelia to learn why his son, Mark, hanged himself about three weeks prior. Cordelia interviews a number of people including Mark's old school friends, his bosses, his school mentor, his mother's nanny, his mother's doctor, and a few more. She has a hunch that Mark did not hang himself but that he was, rather, murdered. Cordelia learns that, because of his blood type, Mark could not possibly have been the biological son of the people believed to be his parents, and she discovers that Mark also learned this information before he died. A massive inheritance from his maternal grandfather was to be his upon his twenty-fifth birthday, and suspicions surrounding his maternity might have jeopardized this inheritance. Cordelia eventually discovers that Mark's own father killed him, and he only hired Cordelia to learn who had tampered with the scene he'd constructed in order to provide a plausible motive for a suicide. Cordelia learns that Mark's mother was really Miss Leaming, who shoots and kills Sir Ronald when she hears him confess to Cordelia that he was responsible for Mark's death, and Cordelia helps her to cover up the murder and make it seem as though Sir Ronald actually took his own life.

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Summary

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Private detective Cordelia Gray is on her way to work, not knowing that her boss, Bernie Pryde, had died the night before. Upon arriving at the office, Gray discovers his body and a suicide note that outlines his terminal illness. She subsequently learns she has inherited the firm, his gun, and his debts. Given Great Britain’s handgun laws, the inheritance of the gun is a tricky matter.

Elizabeth Leaming, the business manager for Gray’s first client, Sir Ronald Callendar, is waiting at the office when Gray returns from the cremation. Leaming chides her for being late, noting that it is eighteen minutes past 4 p.m., the stated return time posted on the door, and then expresses her wish to speak to Mr. Pryde. Surprised at the news of his death, Leaming then begins to taker her leave, but Gray enthusiastically sells her own skills in hopes of keeping the client. After a phone call consultation with her employer, Leaming hires Gray and asks her to come immediately to meet Sir Ronald and learn about the case.

On the train journey to Cambridge, Leaming quizzes Gray on her training. Gray learns that Leaming and Sir Ronald were referred to Pryde by a former client, whom Pryde always predicted would send them an important referral. Gray reminisces about Pryde and also thinks of her own past as she compares herself to Leaming. Gray’s mother had died when she was an infant and her father was not always able to take proper care of her. Although strongly not religious himself, he entrusted young Cordelia to the nuns; Gray, during her formative years, had lived at a convent school.

Gray is uncomfortable in the luxury and formality of the Callendar residence, but is rejuvenated when given information about the case. She is also given a photograph of Mark Callendar, Sir Ronald’s son, whose death sparked the investigation. Gray sleeps with the photo at night, with her hands “closed protectively” over the envelope. The next morning, Gray assembles her supplies, including a new notebook labeled with the case name, and begins...

(The entire section contains 1388 words.)

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