While DI Thomas Lynley is still on compassionate leave after the murder of his wife, Isabelle Ardery is brought into the Met as his temporary replacement. The discovery of a body in a Stoke Newington cemetery offers Isabelle the chance to make her mark with a high profile murder investigation. Persuading Lynley back to work seems the best way to guarantee a result: Lynley's team is fiercely loyal to him and Isabelle needs them - and especially Barbara Havers - on side.
The Met is twitchy: a series of PR disasters has undermined its confidence.
Isabelle knows that she'll be operating under the unforgiving scrutiny of the media, so is quick -- perhaps too quick - to pin the murder on a convenient suspect. The murder trail leads Lynley and Havers to the New Forest, and the eventual resolution of the case. Its roots are in a long-ago act of violence that has poisoned subsequent generations and its outcome is both tragic and shocking.