"He glances over at her. Her shoulder length brown hair is matted with wet against the sides of her face, and there are dark circles under her eyes. He is uncertain of her age. Not young, he decides. Thirty? Forty? He finds it impossible to judge with foreigners. Her clothes are ordinary enough: jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and a dark green pullover that now smells of wet wool. The enormous coat she was wearing lies in a sodden ball on the floor of the back seat. It was the coat he noticed first when she dragged him from the water: made of heavy black wool, it stretched down below her knees and was buttoned up to the neck. No one in their right mind would attempt to rescue a drowning man in such a coat..." On a freezing night in February, a woman wades into the waters of Morecambe Bay in a drunken bid to commit suicide. Braced for death, she finds herself instead saving a man's life - a young Chinese cockle picker, one of the only survivors of a tragic mass drowning. For Wen - now missing, presumed dead - Angie provides an unexpected sanctuary. They share neither language nor experience, but she agrees to let him stay with her and 'disappear'.
Within a short time their unlikely pairing blossoms into something darkly passionate. But Wen's past soon catches up with him. He is still in debt to the snakeheads who brought him out of China. And when his sister, Lili, travels to Britain in search of his memory, she unwittingly seals his fate.