When the bonfire finally dies down on Guy Fawkes night 1857, the charred remains of a popular stationmaster's body are found. Who would possibly want to murder a man so universally liked? It's the question Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck and Sergeant Victor Lemming ask when they arrive in Exeter at the request of the South Devon Railway. Yet, as they investigate the stationmaster's life, they realize he is not as popular as they first believed. With a scorned jilted lover, a resentful colleague and a violent elder brother among the many suspects, the detectives must use all their skill and wit to solve the case.