DCI Barnaby and DS Jones investigate the apparent murder of Peter Baxter, the accountant for the now bankrupt King Crystal company in Midsomer Magna. There are many possible suspects. The King Glass factory was owned by brothers Alan and Charles King. Six months after Alan's death however, his widow married Charles, much to the dismay of her son Ian. The young man may have inherited his father's shares in the company but his uncle Charles and Baxter have excluded him from the development of their future plans. With the company under protection, the workers, led by Jack Tewson, have lost not only their jobs but their pensions as well and are convinced Baxter had his fingers in the till. Finally there is Baxter's daughter Sophie whose ex-boyfriend James Taylor had frequent run-ins with her father. When a second murder takes place, Barnaby seems no further ahead than he was at the outset. It is a local production of Hamlet however—with daughter Cully in one of the lead roles—that sets him on the path to solving the case.
Alan and Charles King, brothers and co-owners of the King's Crystal glassware firm, are on a business trip to Shanghai with their chief accountant, Peter Baxter. Alan's wife Hilary phones from England to tell Alan that they have managed to save the open air theatre, one of Alan's side projects. A delighted Alan tells his brother Charles this news, who retorts that they may be able to save their flagging business as well. Later that evening, Alan crashes his car and dies in the ensuing explosion.
Six months later, Charles is wed to Hilary, Alan's widow, much to her son Ian's ire. The factory workers, led by Jack Tewson, lead a protest outside the church against Charles and Baxter, whom they blame for the financial meltdown of King's Crystal since Alan's death. The workers also accuse Baxter and Charles of embezzling the pension funds. Tewson and Baxter come to blows over the dispute. Ian broods by his father's grave, supported by his gay friend David Monroe. Ian has been acting moodily since his father's death, shunning everyone except David. The pair discuss Baxter's daughter Sophie, who is in love with Ian.
At the Causton police station Barnaby tells Jones of his daughter Cully's upcoming role in Hamlet at the open air theatre in Midsomer Magna. Peter Baxter visits the local Freemasons' Lodge, where Charles King is the Worshipful Master. Baxter bursts in, agitated, because Tewson has been spreading damaging allegations of corruption within King's Crystal's management, concerning Baxter and Charles' business practices. Charles tells Baxter that he shall deal with Tewson.
Sophie returns to her and her father's home to find Baxter has put it up for sale, as he is leaving Midsomer to escape the angry workers from the factory. That evening Baxter visits the factory, to find the offices broken into and ransacked. Baxter disturbs an unseen intruder, who is breaking into a filing cabinet with an ornate dagger. Whilst posting a letter, David Monroe is nearly run over by Baxter, whom he identifies in the dark by the accountant's trademark cap. The next morning, Hilary King finds Baxter's car by a stream—and Baxter dead in the water with a stab wound to his chest.
Barnaby and Jones inform Sophie of her father's death, and she tells them her father had only enemies. She is comforted by James Taylor, Sophie's childhood sweetheart and a devoted Mason. The detectives also hear that Baxter was blamed by many for King's Crystal's bankruptcy, but Charles denies he was responsible. He also mentions his plans to relocate King's Crystal to China.
At his workplace, the undertaker's, James Taylor says that he and Sophie were once close, but her father put the blocks on it, wanting to match her with Ian King. After Barnaby and Jones leave, James tries to rekindle his relationship with Sophie, but she still loves Ian. The file on Charles King reveals him to be squeaky-clean, and that he is a Mason. Jones himself is a lapsed Mason, having thought that joining the brotherhood would help with his promotion. Barnaby and Jones meet Jack Tewson, the ringleader of the redundant workers at the factory and find the offices broken into and papers all over the floor. It seems as if the intruder were looking for evidence of corrupt dealings at the firm, which puts the embittered Jack in the frame. He has no alibi either. Trying to divert suspicion away from himself, Jack suggests Ian King was responsible for the break-in. Ian was given a share of the company when his father died, but his uncle and Baxter are keeping him out of the business proceedings.
Barnaby and Jones find Ian on the meadow, studying for his PhD in biology with David. David mentions how he was nearly run over by Baxter the previous evening, on the way out from King's Crystal. David could not stand Baxter because the accountant frequently made snide comments about his sexuality. Ian claims that if his father were alive, King's Crystal would never have closed and that the company's liquidation is the fault of Charles and Baxter.
The weapon used to kill Baxter is found, a Masonic dagger with the accountant's initials on it. Charles says Baxter used it in his office as a paper knife. Whilst going through his father's things, Ian finds the sketchbook Alan had on the fateful trip to China. The contents appear to disturb him.
On the meadow, Barnaby finds Ian, who hastily stuffs the sketchbook into his bag when Barnaby calls him. Ian asks about the open air theatre and says that he chose Hamlet as the first production because it would "do his mother good to see it". Ian does not say why. The tip of the dagger used to kill Baxter is missing, and it is not in the accountant's body nor near where he was found. Barnaby deduces that Baxter must have died away from where he was found. Ian starts acting more reasonably, reconciling his relationship with Charles and getting involved in with the business. Out on the meadow, David Monroe catches Jack pointing his gun at Ian. Jack claims he was after rabbits. Jones attends a meeting at the Masonic Lodge, where the new initiate to the Brotherhood is none other than Ian King.
Barnaby and Jones discover Baxter set up several large offshore accounts before he died. Ian is suddenly even more unstable than before, and insults Sophie before telling David that he is getting 'close to the truth'. Ian tells David that he knows who killed Baxter, but refuses to tell him any more.
Whilst negotiating the pension funds with Charles, Jack plays his trump card—a copy of King's Crystal's accounts over the last two years, exposing the fraudulent dealings and the embezzlement of the pension fund. Jack says it appeared on his doormat that morning, stolen from the office. The missing shard of the Masonic dagger is found in the offices, so the intruder must have used it to break in, and Baxter may have disturbed them, so the intruder turned it on him. But Baxter cannot have died at the offices because David Monroe saw him alive and well, steaming away from King's Crystal later that evening.
Barnaby talks with David, who tells him about Ian's troubles since his father died. David tells Barnaby that Ian knows who killed Baxter. Barnaby arranges to meet Ian to discuss what he knows the next day. David sees James Taylor carry a long sack into his van, and Sophie goes missing at the same time. Ian tells something awful to his mother Hilary. When Charles asks her what it was, Hilary says it concerns Baxter's death.
Ian fails to show at the arranged meeting point the next day, and Barnaby and David go in search of him. Charles King finds Ian dead, hung by the rope used at Masonic ceremonies to lead in initiates. Sophie Baxter disappears, and Jones theorises that the sack James Taylor was carrying could have been used to carry her body. Barnaby tells Jones to bring Taylor in.
Interviewing Taylor, the detectives learn that the sack contained Peter's things to be taken to Oxfam, and that Sophie has fled up north to a friend to get away from the stress in Midsomer Magna. Bullard's initial report states that Ian's body was full of barbiturates, so he would have been unconscious when the rope was put around his neck. Barnaby and Jones seek out Hilary King by Alan's grave to tell her this. Hilary is distraught upon being told Ian was murdered, and nearly collapses out of shock.
Barnaby finds Baxter's cap in the bushes half a mile behind the postbox where David Monroe saw the accountant. Barnaby deduces that the person in Baxter's car was pretending to be him in order to divert suspicion away from the break-in, where Baxter died. The intruder used Baxter's dagger to break into the filing cabinets, losing a shard off the tip of the blade in the process. Baxter disturbed them, and in the struggle that ensued Baxter was killed. The intruder placed the body in Baxter's car, and drove to the stream (nearly running over David in the process) to dump the body. Running across the meadow, adrenaline pumping, he realises he's still got the cap, so he tosses it into the bushes. All Barnaby and Jones need is the 'who'.
Hilary King is inconsolable at Ian's death. She gives her husband Charles a withering glare. During Cully's first performance at the open air theatre, everything clicks for Barnaby. Ian King chose Hamlet as the opening production for his mother to see. In the play, Hamlet's uncle murders Hamlet's father to gain power and his brother's wife. Ian believes Charles did the same, killing Alan to gain control of the company. Barnaby and Jones storm round to the Kings', where David Monroe tells them Hilary has taken Charles to hospital, but a check reveals no-one like him has been admitted. Barnaby and Jones head to the factory, where Hilary is about to kill Charles. Barnaby manages to talk her out of it.
Barnaby finally manages to piece together all the events in this case. Charles King and Peter Baxter were embezzling the company's accounts to relocate King's Crystal to China as part of a dubious consortium. Alan King found out about this and wrote about it in his sketchbook, which Ian found when he was going through his father's things. Charles wanted control of the company and Hilary, and his brother Alan stood in the way of that. Exhuming his body, the examination reveals that Alan had shards of glass in his stomach when he died, a form of poisoning indigenous to China. This is what caused him to crash.
Ian King broke into the offices in search of the account details of King's Crystal, the very documents Baxter himself had come to destroy before he left Midsomer. There was a struggle, and Baxter was accidentally stabbed. Ian sent the accounts to Jack Tewson. Later, Ian told his mother what he had done to Baxter, but that wasn't all he said. He told her that Charles had killed Alan, which Hilary then told Charles. She didn't believe Ian, but when Charles killed Ian to shut him up, Hilary realised that her son was right. She drugged Charles' food and took him to the factory, where she would have killed Charles had it not been for Barnaby and Jones' intervention.
Case closed, Jones gives Barnaby his own dagger, and thanks him for trusting him during the investigation. Tom says that trust is something that is hard to come by, easy to lose and never to be taken lightly. Jones asks if the quote is Shakespeare's, but the DCI attributes it to Thomas Barnaby.
- John Nettles as DCI Tom Barnaby
- Jason Hughes as DS Ben Jones
- Jane Wymark as Joyce Barnaby
- Laura Howard as Cully Barnaby
- Barry Jackson as Dr. George Bullard
- Tony Haygarth as Jack Tewson
- John Castle as Charles King
- Ray Lonnen as Peter Baxter
- Joseph Rye as James Taylor
- Sam Heughan as Ian King
- Susan Tracy as Hilary King
- Flora Montgomery as Sophie Baxter
- Tim Delap as David Monroe
- David Henry as Photographer
- Hugh Sachs as Harold Bumstead
- Oliver Ryan as Hamlet
- Morris Perry as Pub Landlord
- David Firth as Alan King
- Charlie Brown as Boy 1
- Luke McMillan as Boy 2
- John Kinory as Claudius (uncredited)
- John Snowden as Detective (uncredited)
The following actors and actress who appeared in this episode have also appeared in the following episodes:
- Susan Tracy - Death in Disguise
- Tony Haygarth - Destroying Angel and A Rare Bird
- Morris Perry - Dark Autumn
- David Henry - Dance with the Dead
- Oliver Ryan - The Oblong Murders
- John Kinory - Last Man Out