Three children are massacred in their beds. The crushed corpse of their mother is discovered in a dockside warehouse. Then the husband, Bruno Gottewald, is dead and buried - killed while out on field manoeuvres. In less than a week the entire Gottewald family has been wiped off the face of the earth. A tragic coincidence? Or are the invading French army using the massacre to expand their power? Hanno Stiffeniis, a Prussian magistrate, goes to investigate the deaths, seeking to discover how the crime was committed and the motive behind the massacre. But only Hanno's wife, Helena, knows what truly happened in that cottage.