The corpse of the title is that of William Hennessy, a universally disliked teacher at U. S. Grant High School, who turns up dead in one of the school's science lab. There is no end of suspects, and when Charlotte Hill (Charlie to her friends), the principal of the school, discovers that a group of students has been using the lab to make illegal drugs, and that the newly deceased had been blackmailing these enterprising chemists, there is the hope of a quick solution. However, this hope is dashed when the students admit the drug making, but insist the teacher was already a corpse upon their arrival to meet with him. Suspicion then turns to various others: a recent graduate and boyfriend of a student who has been sexually abused by Hennessy, the school custodian, one of the janitors. When the janitor is found dead in his car the police are happy to call it a suicide and to write finis to Hennessy's murder, but Charlie has her doubts, and sets about to find the answers. Eventually she does, but not before her life is threatened and the threat almost becomes a reality.