Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers
When a young female student is found murdered in a hotel room, detectives Lewis and Hathaway are drawn into a case driven by celebrity, ambition, scheming and dangerous sexual politics that brings Lewis face-to-face with his past.
The murdered girl, Jo Gilchrist, is one of three Oxford students who each possess an overwhelming ambition to succeed and have grouped together to achieve this, hatching ploys and schemes to further their ambitions. But as Lewis and Hathaway discover, some of these alliances may not be what they seem.
Nicky Turnbull, a convicted computer hacker turned best-selling celebrity author, is invited by the group to give a lecture at the University Student's Union, on face value because of his notoriety. But when he too is killed, Lewis and Hathaway begin to suspect that the two murders may be linked. And could it be that Lewis himself is the intended target, the attempts on his life unwittingly thwarted by the students' scheming?
The case becomes even more personal when Turnbull's wife Diane arrives — Lewis' old classmate and girlfriend. As Turnbull's widow, she stands to inherit a considerable sum of money, and perhaps the marriage was not so happy in light of his constant casual affairs. Does Lewis trust her anymore; can he believe anything she says? And do the embers of teenage passion still flicker somewhere beneath his policeman's badge?
As the investigation progresses, Lewis and Hathaway find that their list of suspects is only getting longer since Turnbull made enemies everywhere — those he stole money from, those he stole information from, and the fellow prisoners whose stories he stole in order to make his book a best seller.