DI Kate Simms is on the fast track to nowhere. Five years ago she helped a colleague when she shouldn't have. She's been clawing her way back from a demotion ever since. Professor Nick Fennimore is a failed genetics student, successful gambler, betting agent, crime scene officer, chemistry graduate, toxicology specialist and one-time scientific advisor to the National Crime Faculty. He is the best there is, but ever since his wife and daughter disappeared he's been hiding away in Scotland, working as a forensics lecturer. In Manchester, drug addicts are turning up dead and Simms' superior is only too pleased to hand the problem to her. Then a celebrity dies and the media gets interested. Another overdose victim shows up, but this time the woman has been systematically beaten and all identifying features removed. The evidence doesn't add up; Simms' superiors seem to be obstructing her investigation; and the one person she can't afford to associate with is the one man who can help: Fennimore.