Ex-Detective Inspector Theo Tate is standing by a grave waiting for a body to be exhumed. Over the last year he has lost his young daughter to a drunken driver and his wife was left paralyzed and catatonic. The drunken driver disappeared and though everybody suspects Tate dealt with him, there is no evidence to pin on him but he has to leave the Christchurch police force and now works as a private detective. When the novel opens at Cemetery Lake, Tate has been called in by his ex colleagues to help as they are over burdened dealing with the case of a serial killer known as the Christchurch Carver.
As the coffin is unearthed, three bodies suddenly bubble up onto the surface of the nearby lake. Once open, the coffin reveals a further disquieting fact: the body in the coffin is the wrong one! Tate, always the detective, starts his own investigation parallel to that of his colleagues. In doing so he finds himself dragged into a labyrinth of horrific crimes and also discovers a much darker side to himself than he could ever have imagined.