"The smile froze on Judy's lips as she heard the scream. It seemed to come from the direction in which she had just walked; she retraced her steps, and saw the girl she had seen earlier, standing by the willow tree, by the pram, her hands to her mouth.
'She's gone!' the girl said. 'The baby's gone.'"
In an isolated cottage a woman has been bludgeoned to death; outside, a man has been crushed by a car, uttering the word 'intruder' before losing consciousness. That, and a row overheard earlier that morning, is all Detective Chief Inspector Lloyd has to go on.
Who is the dead woman? Where's her handbag? If it was a burglary, why the extreme violence? A house-removal is in progress, but were the couple moving in or moving out? Were they a couple? Who was having the argument? If it was a domestic, why is the handbag missing? Who was the intruder? Was there an intruder? Who rang 999? Was it a love triangle? Who was driving the car found abandoned a mile away?
Questions without answers, and Lloyd is short-handed; a baby has disappeared from Malworth, and DS Tom Finch has joined the team urgently searching for leads.
Lloyd doesn't yet know how deeply involved in that enquiry Judy Hill, still on maternity leave, has become, nor how profoundly it will affect both her and his own murder investigation . . .