When a boy finds a skeleton buried in a dried-up reservoir, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks is brought back from career Siberia to head what seems like a routine, dead-end investigation. He finds it is anything but.
With the help of Detective Sergeant Annie Cabbot, another exile, Banks uncovers long-kept secrets in a community that prefers to forget its past. Banks's work on the case fills a void in his life and consumes him in a way few other cases have.
While Banks and Annie pursue their investigation, Gwen Shackleton relates her tale of Hobb's End, the Yorkshire village that died before the reservoir was built. Her narrative, touched with both innocence and irony, takes us from 1941 to 1945, recreating another age, an age of rationing, of Land Girls, of American airmen, of dances and movies - and of murder.
As Banks and Annie dig to uncover the deceptive and desperate relationships of over fifty years ago, suspense heightens and the past finally bursts through into the present with terrifying consequences.