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DCI Barbara Black investigates the curious death of Adrian Mansfield, an artistic young man cast adrift in a boat on Amberton lake. He has been tied into a sitting position with an insulting sign hung about his neck. Murder is assumed, but Barbara's investigations take us into the escalating family tragedy and Adrian's dark, antinatalist philosophy. No-one seems surprised that Adrian has died. He was, we learn, obsessed with his dead sister, a talented young writer, who took her own life a few years earlier. So, indeed, is Martha Bottomley, a retired social worker and friend of the family, who has, according to Barbara's sergeant, a morbid interest in the deaths of young people. Philosophical and thought-provoking detective fiction - a why rather than who dunnit.