In these days after WWII, England is no longer the place the young men left when they went away to fight. The mining industry has been nationalized, and even Comerford's old slapdash efforts at opening up its shallow coal deposits are about to be reopened, with a flood of new faces coming in to operate the new machinery. The men who went away, of course, aren't those who came back: Jim Tugg, the hired man at the Hollins farm, with daring exploits as a paratrooper; Chad Wedderburn, the pacifist classics master who spent years in guerilla fighting; even Charles Blunden, son of Selwyn Blunden of Harrow, fought all the way across North Africa and Sicily.
Expatriates from all over Europe are common enough, even ex-POWs who still slip and say 'Heil Hitler!' if they forget. (And get beaten up, maybe, by somebody whose brother died in a Stalag.) Helmut Schauffler, though, has been asking to be murdered by going far beyond that.
Gerd Hollins had lost her entire family in the concentration camps. Haunted by memories of horror that won't stay suppressed, she asked her husband to hire Helmut, because if she could learn to see one German as a human being, it would help her to let go of her nightmares. Unfortunately, Helmut is a creep - an actual Nazi who enjoys psychological torment (though he's not stupid enough to try it in front of her husband or hired man). When he's fired and takes a job at the quarry, he still harasses her in a slimy way, while causing discord everywhere else he goes.
Sergeant Felse isn't surprised when Helmut finally turns up floating in the brook, head bashed in, although he's less than thrilled that his 13-year-old son Dominic found the corpse. Despite George's best efforts, Dominic gets interested in the case, especially since his classics master is a suspect.