Lacey Flint returns from her harrowing ordeal undercover at Oxford College Campus for the London police force. When last seen in Dead Scared, a drugged Flint was facing a distraught Detective Inspector Mark Joesbury across a distance, the DI attempting to talk her down from an hallucinogen-inspired dive to her death from a tower. Now Lacey is in London on sick leave, a bit the worse for wear and purposely isolating from her colleagues. She contemplates a different career, unable to shake the trauma of her near-death experience. With a court date against the culprits looming, she has withdrawn even further into self-imposed solitude.
Deeply attached to Flint, Joesbury surreptitiously monitors her activities, even stakes out her house at night, hoping to expand on the connection they made after dancing too long around the love/hate force field of their relationship before the Oxford incident. In that moment of great danger, they exchanged confidences both had been too proud to admit, their tentative bond enough to keep Lacey from plummeting to her death. Now it's as though none of it happened. Lacey refuses to acknowledge her true feelings about Joesbury, preferring denial over opportunity.
Though Lacey is unwilling to return to duty, she cannot escape reality: she lives in an area where four recent child abduction/homicides have created chaos, a fifth body about to be found. All of the victims are ten to twelve-year-old boys in a neighborhood bordering the Thames—boys like Barney, who lives next door to Flint. Motherless, his father often absent, Barney has made overtures of friendship to Lacey, even though he strongly suspects she is with the police. Since Barney's father frequently works in the evening, the boy is left alone until his father' return. While all of Barney's friends are obsessed with the recent killings, thrilled to be living in close proximity to a murderer, Barney is engaged in another, more important mission: locating his mother. Convinced that she has just gone away, he has been placing ads in nearby papers, searching in an orderly fashion for a woman whose face he cannot even recall.
Afraid to broach the subject, Barney carefully hides the search for his mother from his father, whom he only belatedly realizes keeps secrets of his own. As the murders accelerate, Lacey and Barney draw closer together in mutual comfort. The people of London follow every new detail with a combination of curiosity and terror as Lacey is inevitably pulled into the drama despite her determination to avoid the resolution of her conflicted feelings. Agitated by a growing threat to Barney's safety, Lacey is thrust into the heart of the action, once more facing a life-and-death situation.
While Lacey's ambition is tainted by the emotional baggage of her recent ordeal and the assault of Joesbury's quiet persistence, Detective Inspector Dana Tulloch, who is heading the investigation, is prone to lose her professional detachment in the face of grieving parents, even prison inmates brainstorming to create a profile of the murderer. On the outside looking in, Lacey's challenge is whether to rejoin the world or continue to remain apart. a secret relationship with a clearly critical character adds another level to Lacey's conflict with her environment, suggesting her need to compartmentalize her life to maintain control. The menace of a killer-at-large creates a sense of imminent danger, and Bolton melds the idiosyncrasies of human nature with the aberrant behavior of criminals who hide among the innocent in another page-turner that always leaves readers always wanting more.