When the curate of the local church in Midsomer Parva is burned alive in the effigy of the straw woman, DCI Tom Barnaby and DS Dan Scott find themselves investigating what must be a murder. Many of the villagers lay the blame on Alan Clifford who has made his fortune in the sex industry and has moved into the local manor house. There were others in the village however that objected to what they saw as a pagan festival. When the vicar is also killed - he too is burned to death in what some believe is the result of spontaneous combustion - the police have difficulty keeping some of the villagers from taking justice into their own hands. As the death toll keeps mounting, Barnaby realizes that the solution is to be found in old parish records.