Black residents are highly visible in a small English country town like Kingsmarkham. Yet Dr. and Mrs. Akande's daughter, Melanie, fresh from university but a disappointment to her career-driven parents, has disappeared into thin air. She was last seen at the Employment Centre, where she has just signed on for social assistance, when she inexplicably vanished. Now Inspector Wexford finds himself with an investigation complicated by Melanie's feckless boyfriend, his own eye for a too-pretty employment counsellor, and a bizarrely incompetent burglar...as well as a systematic adulterer, a vengeful wife, a treacly politician... and a perplexing corpse. The case will take Wexford from a sunny, soigne garden party to the greyness of unemployment in a derelict shack and finally onto the streets. Here his endless fascination with the peculiarities of human nature leads him from a volatile mix of motives and suspects straight into an explosion of snobbery, sexism, racism--and brutal murder in blood both hot and cold.