A conman publisher visits a writing circle in Chichester and gets their hopes up. Soon, he is burned to death in his cottage. Other arson-murders follow.
In the first half of the book, the story is primarily told from the viewpoint of the newest member of the writers’ circle, Bob Naylor, who starts investigating, egged on by some of the others. In the second half, it becomes a police procedural, as seen by Detective Chief Inspector Henrietta Mallin, who takes over the case.
The Circle is a whodunnit in the classic vein, with interfering amateur detectives and a large cast of suspects. The characters are well-drawn, often quirky, and quite distinct. It’s more real than, say, Agatha Christie’s mysteries: people do get hurt; it’s not just a game.