Elizabeth Loftus, a young British counterintelligence agent, and an older colleague, David Audley, are driving through the English countryside in her Morgan, discussing certain individuals who may have been mistakenly cleared as treason suspects during long-past investigations. "Who ever knew an innocent man with a perfect alibi?," Audley asks rhetorically.
The implication in the comment, raising as it does the difficulties in separating the innocent from the guilty in the murky world of espionage, forms the theme of this flawed novel that is long on dialogue and short on action. The Other Side, as the KGB is called, is behind the puzzle that Loftus and Audley are trying to solve, but its agents never show up in the narrative.
Virtually the entire book is a series of rambling, probing discussions between Loftus, who is on her first field assignment, and Audley, the shrewd, sardonic protagonist of Anthony Price's previous spy novels, and the various individuals they encounter. Sexism, but not sex, rears its head as Loftus, who has a beautiful body but a plain face, finds herself repeatedly being patronized by the Old Boys.
There is little suspense and little violence as Loftus and Audley make their rounds. An elderly U.S. war veteran is pushed off a Normandy cliff that he had scaled on D-Day 40 years earlier, a murder that leads to the reopening of the closed cases. Another veteran, this one British, dies--was it murder or a heart attack?--on the floor of a quaint old inn just as Loftus and Audley arrive to meet him.