Fifty-five-year-old Jim Lapsford makes an unusually healthy-looking corpse. A life-long devotee of vitamin pills and herbal remedies, it seems almost ironic that he has succumbed to a heart attack. His GP is convinced that this is the case but trainee undertaker Drew Slocombe isn't so sure and he is convinced that there is enough conflicting medical evidence to merit a coroner's inquest at least. And then there's Jim's personal life: in addition to a long suffering wife, two sons and a grieving terrier, Jim appears to have left behind a series of scorned mistresses.
It seems everyone else is happy enough to accept the doctor's verdict and Drew shouldn't really rock the boat, but can he really turn his back on murder? Even so, Drew may have plenty of suspects but he has no proof. And Jim's cremation is days away...
What is he really like? Bombastic, autocratic, say his critics. Colourful, stimulating, say his admirers.
Tim Heald was given a unique opportunity to find out for himself. Not for twenty years had a biographer been allowed such access to talk to Prince Philip and watch him at work - still very much a man in a hurry, still speaking and questioning on an astonishing variety of subjects and treading the most impossible tightrope between the breezy informality which he first introduced to the royal family and the parade-ground traditions which he has had to accept.
And members of the royal family - among them the Queen Mother, Princes Margaret, Princess Anne and his only surviving sister, Princess Sophie - also share with Heald their thoughts on the man who started life as Philip of Greece, one of a royal family who were deposed and exiled while he was still an infant.
Many other witnesses reveal for the first time the Prince Philip they know. His early days in exile, at schools in France, in England and in Germany - where he had first-hand experience of the 'unpleasant habits' of the Nazis, and then in Scotland at the newly founded Gordonstoun. His service with distinction in the Royal Navy during World War Two. His engagement in 1947 to Princess Elizabeth, twenty-one-year-old daughter of King George VI.
As TIm Heald observes, Prince Philip swiftly emerged as very much his own man, winning over one or two doubters within the Court who might have preferred a home-grown aristocrat as husband to the future Queen.
Written with the co-operation of Buckingham Palace, THE DUKE is a brilliantly informed portrait of a life that has been independent of, but fully supportive to the Queen.