Angela Jackson, a young girl abducted from Whitebridge Corporation Park, has been missing for over twenty-four hours and, in the opinion of Dr Stevenson, the psychiatrist who Woodend turns to for advice, her kidnapper will first torture and then kill her. Woodend is aware of the damaging strains operating within his own team. Inspector Bob Rutter seems unable to control his infatuation with the unscrupulous journalist, Elizabeth Driver, while Sergeant Monika Paniatowski, is rapidly developing a deep affection for Rutter's small daughter, Louisa. And, Woodend's old enemy, Chief Constable Marlowe, is hovering in the background like a malevolent bird of prey, just waiting for the chief inspector to make a mistake. The more the investigation proceeds, the less Woodend can see any signs of hope. And he knows - deep within himself - that he will fail in bringing Angela back alive.