An old woman is beaten to death. A young girl disappears. Taken on to investigate, private detective Frank Sterling is plunged into a desperate and unconventional flight across eastern England and a race against time. Who are his pursuers, and what secret from the distant past are they trying to suppress? From the gentle landscape of Suffolk to the banks of the Thames and back to his native Kent, Sterling has to face challenges and danger that crop up again and again as he protects his client. And with help to solve his second major case from a range of unexpected sources, he has to confront and adjust his own lazy attitudes in an unfamiliar and confusing social world.