Inspector Hal Challis has been summoned to Mawson’s Bluff, his childhood home in the Australian Outback, where his father is dying. Sergeant Ellen Destry is left to head an investigation into a ring of pedophiles that has descended on the peaceful Mornington Peninsula, a resort community near Melbourne.
A little girl has been abducted from the fairgrounds at the annual Waterloo Show; it takes her mother twenty-four hours to report her missing. By then, hope is slim that the police will find the child before it is too late.
Challis’ sister’s difficult husband disappeared from the Bluff four years ago; since then Meg has received nuisance mail that she assumes comes from him. While Challis is in town, an extra buried body is discovered when a new grave is dug in the local graveyard. A black plastic bag containing the corpse of Meg’s husband is found on top of a coffin that was interred four years earlier.