Late November, 1980. Nick Hartley, an English student, returns home from a lecture to find the police waiting. He soon discovers that his ex-girlfriend, Alice Poole, has been found murdered in a nearby park, and her new boyfriend, Mark Woodcroft, is missing. Nick quickly realises that he is a suspect as he has no convincing alibi, and he was known to be upset about the end of the relationship. Nick has his own suspicions, but he finds that the more he pushes Mark as someone worth investigating, the less the police seem interested in the case. To complicate matters, the Yorkshire Ripper has recently been active in the area, and the police are devoting most of their resources to tracking him own.
Meanwhile…….Late November, 2019. On an archaeological dig near Scotch Corner, Grace Hutchinson unearths a skeleton that turns out to be far more recent than the Roman remains she is looking for. Detective Superintendent Alan Banks and his team are called in, and the investigation into the find begins.
Back in the 80s, Nick finishes his degree and, still obsessed with Alice’s murder, begins a career in journalism that takes him from a provincial weekly to a local daily and, ultimately, to a major national, where he becomes an investigative reporter. In 2012, through his work, he comes into contact with an old university acquaintance, who tells him something he didn’t know about Alice’s boyfriend. This encourages him to pursue his own investigation to try to uncover the truth about Alice’s murder, which leads him into serious danger.
Meanwhile, Banks and his team work with a forensic pathologist and anthropologist to identify the skeletal remains, but find few pointers as to the identity of the body except that it is a male aged between fifty and sixty, murdered by a blows to the skull, and buried sometime between 2009 and 2016. Smart and dogged police work, mostly by DC Gerry Masterson and DS Winsome Jackman, along with forensic services, reveal a bit more from the few intriguing fragments found with the remains, which along with trawling through missing persons reports gives the team a number of leads to follow, leads which eventually propel them towards Nick’s investigation and an old mystery nobody wants unearthed.