As he settles into the village life of Aidensfield, North Yorkshire, Police Constable Nick Rhea begins to understand the complexities of rural law enforcement, much of with proves to be very unofficial but highly effective. We hear of his dilemmas as he is torn between his desire to prove the crippled Sidney Chapman's dog innocent of sheep-worrying, and the need to do his duty. Farmer Lowe's sheepdog presents a different problem: the overworked old dog is pretending to be deaf and Rhea finds himself drawn into the crisis; without the dog, the cows cannot be milked. Local colors and characters abound. The mixed creeds of the community provide more headaches for Rhea: for example Jame Bathurst's funeral goes quite smoothly except that the village grave-digger does not want the death-bed convert buried in Catholic ground and has omitted to dig the grave. Rivalry abounds between Anglicans, Catholics and Methodists, and Rhea has his work cut out.
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