When a high-ranking police officer is brutally murdered, Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Sergeant Gemma James are drawn into a case that not only challenges their investigative skills but forces them to examine their ethics and their relationship with each other.
On an evening in mid-November, Alastair Gilbert, a Commander in the London Metropolitan Police, is found dead in the kitchen of his suburban Surry home by his wife, Claire, and seventeen-year-old stepdaughter, Lucy. Gilbert was bludgeoned to death, and there was no sign of forced entry. Someone must have taken Gilbert by surprise – or the killer was someone he trusted. Kincaid was once Gilbert's student at the police academy, and he fears his personal antipathy toward the dead man may lessen his objectivity in this case. Even more distracting is the state of his relationship with Gemma – strained and tense ever since their intimate encounter a few days earlier.
Both Duncan and Gemma must try to put their feelings for each other and their memories of Alastair Gilbert aside as they discover that Gilbert did not always play by the rules that he publicly espoused, particularly when the rules might have hindered his rise to power.
Gilbert was disliked in the village, too, especially by the owner of the local pub, whose son had become the object of Gilbert's wrath. Events in Gilbert's past lead the police inquiry to London and, eventually, back to the village, where Duncan and Gemma must call on their reserves of courage and compassion to solve the most troubling case either of them has ever encountered.