When 15-year-old Marilyn Howe turns up alone and frightened on Inspector Ramsay's doorstep he has little choice but to invite her in. Marilyn and her mother, Kathleen, are a familiar sight around Heppleburn. But Kathleen has unaccountably failed to return home that evening.
Ramsay takes the young girl home, to the isolated coastal community known as the Headland. And in the Howes' dark and cluttered kitchen they find Kathleen safe and apparently well, though acting rather mysteriously. Six months later, Ramsay has more or less forgotten the strange incident. Until he receives news that Mrs Howe has disappeared once more. Then a woman's body is washed up on the beach....