A visit to her local prison brings DI Vera Stanhope face to face with an old enemy: former detective superintendent John Brace. Brace was convicted of corruption and involvement in the death of a gamekeeper – and Vera played a part in his downfall. Brace promises Vera information about the disappearance of Robbie Marshall, a notorious wheeler-dealer, if she will look out for his family. He tells her that Marshall is dead, his body buried close to St Mary’s Island in Whitley Bay. However, officers find two skeletons. This cold case takes Vera back in time, and very close to home, as Brace and Marshall, along with a mysterious stranger known only as "the Prof", were close friends of Hector, her father.