The discovery of a body in woodland near Midsomer Sonning brings local magazine Midsomer Life into the news. The dead man, Charlie Finleyson, lived in the village until he ran off with the wife of city fund manager turned Midsomer Life owner Guy Sandys, who lives nearby.
Guy has upset residents with negative articles about their businesses. Matt Morecroft, owner of the Morecroft Hotel, is criticised in the latest edition for opening an off-road centre for 4x4 drivers, attracting urban types to the countryside.
Guy's ex, Christina Finleyson, seems detached about her husband's demise and Jones discovers she had visited Midsomer Sonning shortly before Charlie disappeared. But Christina claims she was in the area secretly to help her brother Martin with his finances. Meanwhile Mr Tomlin, a guest at the Morecroft, keeps receiving phone calls from a mystery woman.
Eleanor, a spinster who likes a drink, finishes her shift on hotel reception and shouts abuse at the offices of Midsomer Life. Inside lies the body of Guy Sandys, stabbed through the heart.
He's found the next morning by the editor, Julia Benson. Gemma Platt and her brother Garth are among the magazine's freelance contributors, although Garth irritated Guy by also taking a job at Matt's off-road centre. Later, someone sabotages the 4x4 course with barbed wire.
Julia admits she and Guy were lovers, while Matt claims Guy was upset by the contents of a brown envelope he'd received. Meanwhile, Barnaby and Jones search for the elusive Mr Tomlin who has vanished from the hotel. To their surprise, he turns out to be a murderer on parole.
While searching for a birthday present for Barnaby, Joyce does some digging of her own, learning that Matt tried to bribe Julia not to run Guy's review of the hotel. Eleanor recalls seeing someone in the car park on the night of Guy's murder. Then she becomes the next victim, pushed into a hotel tumble drier.
Barnaby and Jones visit prison where they find Tomlin started having visits from a woman shortly before his release. Could she be the link between Tomlin and Midsomer Life? And as they dig into the editor's credentials, Joyce goes in search of charcoal for a barbecue - and walks into deadly danger&ldots;
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