Ruth Galloway is called in to investigate when builders, demolishing a large old house in Norwich to make way for a housing development, uncover the bones of a child beneath a doorway - minus the skull.
Is it some ritual sacrifice or just plain straightforward murder? DCI Harry Nelson would like to find out - and fast.
It turns out the house was once a children's home. Nelson traces the Catholic priest who used to run the home.
Father Hennessey tells him that two children did go missing from the home forty years before - a boy and a girl.
They were never found. When carbon dating proves that the child's bones predate the home and relate to a time when the house was privately owned, Ruth is drawn ever more deeply into the case.
But as spring turns into summer it becomes clear that someone is trying very hard to put her off the scent by frightening her half to death...