A young girl disappears, then another.
A notorious paedophile is released back into the community. The residents of the Muriel Campden Estate are up in arms, and even prepared to take the law into their own hands.
Chief Inspector Wexford is not only concerned very personally with the effects of violence and prejudice, but is involved with a new programme to help victims of domestic violence. And his daughter, Sylvia, has come to work nearby in a refuge for battered women. Her marriage is also in difficulties, although her husband has never raised a hand to her. They are merely incompatible.
Other women in Kingsmarkham are not so lucky, and, after those early disappearances, two far more serious crimes are committed which will affect the lives and attitudes of police and public alike.