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In the shadowy hallway of clockmaker Johannes Carver’s house a policeman is found murdered, the arrow-tipped minute hand of an antique clock embedded in his neck.

For Dr Gideon Fell this is the only case that has ever really frightened him, and before he can solve it he must find answers to some seemingly impossible questions: why was Calvin Boscombe standing near the corpse with a silencer on his gun? Who locked the attic door? And what has become of the sixteenth-century death-watch?