Stand-in babysitter Jessica Lake sees Nick and Honey Addams off to their tennis match and settles in for a boring Saturday night in suburban Oxford. But for the poor young beauty, it will be her last. The Addamses return to a screaming baby and Jessica's corpse, propped on their bed, wrists bound symmetrically to the headboard. For Lewis and Hathaway, the rope's knots indicated premeditation. But with a last-minute substitute babysitter, was Jessica's murder a case of mistaken identity?
Their question is soon answered with a visit to Boxgrove, the eerie abandoned children's home where Jessica, parentless, grew up and was presently squatting with former residents Kyle and the mentally unbalanced Silas. There Lewis and Hathaway find a brochure featuring Jessica, bound and fetishized, promoting the upcoming museum show of controversial photographer Marion Hammond. Had the shrewd artist staged her muse's death? Or was Jessica killed by Marion's unsavory client — and Nick's boss — Tom Garland, whose high-concept home is decorated with Marion's erotic artworks? On the night of Jessica's murder, the Garlands and the Addamses swapped partners for their match of mixed doubles...and perhaps more.
Lewis and Hathaway's investigation takes them from the smarmy world of suburban swinging couples to the university's primate lab, where the Addams's regular babysitter, Yasmin, works alongside the father of Jessica's troubled boyfriend, Gideon Massey. But even among the caged monkeys, several connections lead back to Marion.
Soon, the line between art and obscenity is brought into terrifying focus when another of Marion's photos is recreated in a gruesome murder. Can Lewis and Hathaway untangle lies and carefully guarded secrets before a deranged killer finds inspiration again?
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Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers
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Jessica Lake, an attractive teenage babysitter, arrives at the Oxford home of Nick and Honey Addams to take care of their toddler while they leave for tennis and a night of fun. When they return the next morning, the child is crying and Jessica is ritually tied to a bed, quite dead.
Arriving at the scene, Lewis and Hathaway soon learn that Jessica was a last minute substitute for Oxford student Yasmin Randall, who was booked as the sitter that night but was suddenly needed at the animal behavior lab run by her tutor, Dr. Joshua Ezrin.
Jessica was also associated with the lab, having been hired by monkey researcher Dr. Bob Massey, who is the father of Jessica's boyfriend, Gideon.
Next, the two cops discover that Jessica's cell phone has photos of her tied up in sadomasochistic poses reminiscent of her death scene. Voicemails on the phone lead them to Marion Hammond, an avant-garde photographer. Marion says that she took the SM pictures at Jessica's suggestion for a series called "Unspeakable Acts" — all in the name of art.
Meanwhile, a friend of Jessica's is seeking rough justice. Silas Whittaker and Jessica were in the same home for troubled children. Now older, streetwise, and obsessed with action comics, Silas is determined to punish Jessica's killer superhero style — if he can find him. Suspecting Gideon, Silas barges into the Masseys' home, can't find Gideon, assaults Dr. Massey, and then leaves.
The following day Silas is found dead, lashed to a flood gauge by the Oxford Canal, his body pierced with mooring spikes — much like some of the imagery in Marion's photos.
Fending off her obvious influence on the two murders, Marion argues that she can't possibly be the killer and points the finger at a bitter ex-lover, Dr. Ezrin, who may be seeking revenge by implicating her. For his part, Dr. Ezrin admits to stalking Marion but denies doing anything "creepy."
Pursuing another lead, Lewis is drawn to Nick Addams as the prime suspect after it emerges that his night out with Honey was really an orgy gone wrong with Nick's boss and his wife, Tom and Davina Garland. Nick's suspicious alibis for his whereabouts around time that Jessica and later Silas were killed land him in the police station for questioning.
But Hathaway has a different theory, sparked by a stuffed toy that's been missing from the Addams' house since the fatal night for Jessica. The crucial clue turns up when Lewis and Hathaway review video footage from Dr. Massey's lab that shows him introducing the toy to one of his monkeys. He calls it "Jessica." It is none other than Noo Noo, a cuddly giraffe that was a favorite of the Addams' toddler.
It turns out that earlier on the day of Jessica's murder, Dr. Massey had overheard that she would be substituting for Yasmin. Having seen Gideon's copies of the bondage pictures, Dr. Massey was both repelled and fascinated — to the point that he wanted to make the pictures real by recreating the tableau with Jessica herself, or rather with her corpse.
When Gideon discovers the pictures in his father's bedroom, Dr. Massey knifes him — but not fatally. The monkey man then heads for Marion's apartment where he accuses her of corrupting the innocent Jessica. On the point of committing another fantasy-fuelled homicide, the mad scientist is disarmed by Lewis and Hathaway, ending another murder spree in the stunningly violent town of Oxford.