Detective Chief Inspector Edgar Sparrow, known behind his back as 'Tweety', likes to ponder a case behind the smoke issuing from his comforting pipe and when bodies start turning up connected to the local Ellingham's department Store it looks like he'll be buying a lot of tobacco before the case is solved. For these are not ordinary murders; some appear to be the multiple killings of one body - a ritual of some kind? Some involve the theft of an item such as a pendant. And then there is the presence of the black sand. The Ellinghams are an old-style aristocratic type family, as hard to break open as a Christmas nut, but maybe Margery Ellingham's long-suffering daughter, Alice, has something to say, if she can just get the detective chief inspector, who she has more than a passing fancy for, to come back and speak to her.