A serial killer known as the Whistler is terrorising the neighbourhood and Commander Dalgliesh is drawn into the lives of the headlanders when it quickly becomes apparent that the Whistler isn't the only murderer at work under the sinister shadow of the power station.
The year is 2021. No child has been born for 25 years. The human race faces extinction. Under the despotic rule of the Warden of England, the old are despairing and the young cruel. Theo Faren, a cousin of the Warden encounters a young woman that leads him into contact with dissenters. And he faces agonising choices.
Two men lie in a welter of blood in the vestry of St Matthew's Church, Paddington, their throats brutally slashed. One is Sir Paul Berowne, a baronet and recently resigned Minister of the Crown, the other an alcoholic vagrant. Dalgliesh and his team are faced with a case of great sensitivity and complexity.
The Peverell Press, a two-hundred-year-old publishing firm housed in a dramatic mock-Venetian palace on the Thames, is certainly ripe for change. But the proposals of its ruthlessly ambitious managing director, Gerard Etienne, have made him dangerous enemies - a discarded mistress, a neglected and humiliated author, and rebellious colleagues.