The Isle of Mull, three days before Christmas, 1998. Sergeant Ivor Punch is contacted by a frantic caller, Maggie May, about a missing pilot and plane. Respected classical musician Xander Lowry has vanished without a trace after taking off, impromptu and alone, in a Cessna Needle from the airfield of a local hotel.
For Punch, this strange incident takes places on the tenth anniversary of the Lockerbie disaster, in which his brother was killed. Now aged 45, Punch is a loner who slaughters sheep to unwind and survives on a diet of whisky and The Faces vinyls, and the last thing he needs is to be reminded of the past.
Then Lowry's body is found, propped up on a hillside - but no plane in sight. To make matters even more frustrating, Punch - more used to employing the amateur sleuth-like services of local accomplices Randy, a musician-come-forestry-worker, and the island's gothic undertaker, Dave the Grave - must entertain an overly-keen and bureaucratic new deputy, PC Cluny, despatched from Head Office.