Balford-le-Nez is a dying seatown on the coast of Essex. But when a member of the town's small but growing Asian community is found dead near its beach, the sleepy town ignites. Intrigued by the involvement of her London neighbor - Taymullah Azhar - in what appears to be a racial conflagration, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers arranges to have herself assigned to the investigation. But this is one case Barbara Havers must solve without her longtime partner, Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley. Havers must probe not only the mind of a murderer and a case very close to her own heart, but also the terrible price people pay for deceiving others...and themselves.