Markus receives a letter from Detective Constable John Carmichael. A Norwegian explorer, Erik Oland, was found stabbed to death in his room at the Station Hotel in Inverness. Markus and Tina agree to help with the murder investigation.
Arriving in Inverness by train, they meet John, Herbert Drummond, a curmudgeonly police surgeon, and Malcolm Knox, a younger policeman assisting Drummond. They examine the evidence – a note written by Oland as he lay dying, and the murder weapon, a Scottish ceremonial dagger.
At the local paper, they gather information about Oland. He planned to explore Loch Ness aboard his vessel, the Kraken. On the night of Oland’s murder, an explosion sent the Kraken to the bottom of Moray Firth. Ian Bloom, a reporter, tells them that a tall, grey-haired (or was it brown?) gentleman was asking about Oland two days ago.
Markus visits the docks. Speaking to the harbourmaster and night watchman, he learns that the boat was filled with electrical equipment and sank quickly. After the explosion, a figure was seen climbing out of the water who then walked in the direction of Castle Inn.
John and Markus talk to the owner of Castle Inn, Mrs Josephine Dawson. After some financial persuasion, Ma Dawson tells them that three men – Brown, MacKay and Winter – took lodging two days ago. When John and Markus visit the room, they find a decaying body with no head. The only clue is a label – “FAM” – on the undershirt.
Tina accompanies Malcolm to the Station Hotel. The manager, Matthew Muir, is distressed by Malcolm’s questions. He is further distressed by Tina’s “reading”. Upstairs, a maid, Jenny Flynn tells Malcolm that she was on her way to Oland’s room to wake him when she saw a disturbance in the lobby.
Visiting an outfitter’s shop, John learns that the dagger was made by Angus Urquhart of Drumnadrochit. The shop has no Urquhart daggers currently in stock.
The party boards a steamboat, the Gondolier, on a trip around the loch. Tina chats to the pilot, Gordon Mungo. The Gondolier stops briefly at Fort Augustus. Mungo points out the monastery and makes an off-colour remark about the monks.
Arriving in the village of Drumnadrochit, they disembark. The weather is fine and sunny (for once). Reclining on a bench next to the village green is a local drunk, Auld Willy. He approaches them with a tale to tell.