The dead man was a drunk; a regular on the park benches of Gotland's city centre. He had been celebrating winning 80,000 Krona at the races. His body is discovered by one of his drinking buddies: he is drenched in blood and someone or something has left a hole the size of a fist in the back of his head.
It's winter on the island of Gotland. The tourists have returned home. The tree branches are bare, the sky is sleet grey and the days are getting shorter and darker. Winter is a quiet time for Chief Inspector Anders Knutas and Detective Karin Jacobsson; the tourists tend to take the violent crimes with them back to the mainland. To keep their lives simple, they are tempted to assume that the victim died as a result of a drunken brawl over money. But all of the clues point to something far more sinister.
Then 14-year old Fanny Jansson, a volunteer at the local stables, vanishes. At first Knutas and Jacobsson find it hard to believe that the two cases are linked: one is a violent murder, the other, the disappearance of a lonely and isolated child who has probably run away. Painstakingly, they work the clues, assisted by ambitious TV reporter Johan Berg. But what none of them realise is that truth is much closer to home than they'd ever imagine.