Plans to build a new hotel in Cabot Cove are put on hold when diggers discover an old skeleton that had been buried deeply that many of the townspeople believe to be the remains of Joshua Peabody. Not everyone is thus inclined though, and many people believe it's just a random dead body. But when Jessica and Amos head back to the dig site, they find there's another body there! Jessica not only has to find out who killed Wheatley, she has to help an old friend when his past comes back to haunt him.
When Jessica is offered an honorary degree from Crenshaw University, she has no idea she's about to become embroiled in a murder. After the boyfriend of (in)famous writer Daphne Clover is found murdered, Jessica agrees to assist the chief of police, who has never had a murder case before, find out who the killer is. She soon has more on her plate than she bargained for when first Daphne's mother confesses, then Daphne herself confesses. Jessica realises the two women are simply trying to protect each other, and begins to look at the faculty at the university.
Jessica decides to pay a visit to her long-time friend Francesca, only to learn that Francesca, who is now married to a much younger man, is convinced that she is being haunted by the ghost of her first husband, Ross. When her new husband, Scott, turns up dead, the investigation reveals that he had been poisoned, and suspicion turns to Francesca. Jessica, however, is determined to prove that her friend did not commit the crime, and begins looking into the mysterious re-appearances of her dead husband.
After their car breaks down after dinner with the governor, Jessica and her friend Ames Caufield find themselves in a small southern town just in time for local bad boy Ed Bonner to be found dead, and young Matt Burns, the son of a former student of Ames', ends up accused of the murder. At the behest of Linda Bonner, the victim's sister who happens to care deeply about the accused, Jessica takes a look into the murder, but hatred runs deep in this town and it's pure luck (and Andy Crane) that leads Jessica and Ames to the right answer.
Jessica and Grady head to the home of publisher Christopher Bundy, whose publishing company owns the rights to Jessica's first short story. Jessica is quite upset, as Bundy's magazine is known for it's racy pictures of young women. While there, Jessica is pleased to run into an old acquaintance, Chester Harrison, and when Harrison is accused of murdering Christopher Bundy, Jessica vows to prove his innocence but runs into trouble when the family isn't interested in having their own skeletons dragged out of the closet.
At the request of aunt Mildred, Jessica agrees to stop by New Orleans to check on cousin Cal while on her way to Houston. No sooner does Jessica get to New Orleans then she is tossed into a Mardi Gras party where the host ends up dead, and Cal is accused of the crime. While attempting to clear Cal's name and reputation, Jessica delves into the world of cheating poker players, cheating girlfriends and vengefilled police officers while trying to convince a local lieutenant that Cal is not capable of murder.
After Julia Marcus Granger is found murdered during what seems to have been an apparent art theft, suspicion turns to her husband Donald, who, as a result, also ends up being suspected in a recent rash of art thefts where there were no fatalities. Julia's sister Sabrina is convinced that Donald didn't do it and begs Jessica for help. While looking into Julia's murder, Jessica realises that she has two completely different criminals on her hands, and someone tampered with the scene of Julia's murder to make it look like something else.