Balford-le-Nez is 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 with unrest. Intrigued by the involvement of her London neighbor-Taymullah Azhar-in what appears to be a potential racial conflagration, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers takes off for the town of Balford-le-Nez and discovers at the head of the investigation Detective Chief Inspector Emily Barlow, an officer whom Havers has long known.

During the course of the investigation, Havers discovers the social differences between the English and Pakistani communities in England, and she experiences first hand the racial divide that separates people whose cultures are like polar extremes.

The victim of the crime is Haytham Querashi, who came to England from Pakistan to take part in an arranged marriage with Sahlah, the willing daughter of Akram Malak whose business interests in the town have revitalized it and made him a well-respected citizen. But Akram is unknowingly at odds with Agatha Shaw, a longtime resident of Balford-le-Nez who is determined to be its benefactress at any price.

Suspects in the crime are many because the climate in Balford-le-Nez is rife with cultural misunderstandings and racial bias. While the Pakistani community demonstrates and argues that the murder is a crime of hate aimed at an entire ethnic group, the police turn their attention to the leader of the Pakistani demonstrators, a young man who has long been a thorn in the side of the local constabulary.

During the course of the investigation, Barbara 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.


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