Prof Marcus Littlechild has mysteriously disappeared. Researcher Anne May, already struggling with marriage breakup and an insecure job, is further frustrated by the need to track down Marcus. She must have his work to meet her pressing deadlines. With his irascible nature and dubious sexual history, Marcus is not exactly a popular figure, but Anne finds that his unexplained absence is already causing a degree of aggravation in the University that seems oddly excessive. She had thought that his old-fashioned truculence and impatience with bureaucracy meant that his influence was waning, in comparison with the rising smooth operator Neil Smart, who fits the new corporate structure so much more easily. However, unease at his absence seems widespread: running from the Vice Chancellor to the young research assistant Rebecca Cliffe, who is Neil Smart’s latest sexual conquest.
Anne’s own attempts to track Marcus down, with the help of his ex-wife, lead her to uncover a number of mysteries. It seems there is a new sexual harassment case against him, although it is quite a while since his last offence – is this one genuine? Who in the Department is supporting the departed lecturer who is pursuing the case? Why was Marcus helping Rebecca Cliffe find somewhere to live and why had he argued with Neil? What did Marcus have on the Vice Chancellor? Is there evidence of corruption in high places?
Operating in a world of power games, with the doubtful help of a weak and vacillating head of department, Anne confronts these questions while trying to focus on delivering the research that is essential to secure her future. Becoming obsessed by Neil’s attempts to steal her work, and the questions surrounding Marcus, she finds herself compelled to ponder whether there is really a mystery to be solved, or is uncertainty making her paranoid and putting her future, and her chance of a new relationship, at risk?