1984/5. Nick Storey is seconded from Customs & Excise to review DHSS work to tackle benefit fraud. Ministers have received an anonymous letter alleging a large scale fraud involving National Insurance numbers. Nick and Rosemary go undercover in Newcastle as VAT inspectors to follow a trail of evidence linked to a series of companies owned by a Geordie ex-miner, Mick Sutton. As they start to close in, one of the suspects vanishes and appears to have been killed, on Sutton's orders. To avoid a similar fate, Nick and Rosemary corner the weakest link in the chain at Ponteland golf club and try to dismantle a criminal network based on blackmail.
"Ballad of a thin man" is the sixteenth book in a series of detective stores set in HM Customs & Excise, by Richard Hernaman Allen, a former Commissioner.