A cheap crooner by the name of John Schwarz earns his keep on a ferry between Sweden and Finland singing evergreens for drunken passengers.
One night, he loses his temper with a man harassing women in the crowd, beating him unconscious. As drunken brawls are commonplace on the Baltic cruising ferries, no one raises an eyebrow. No one, that is, but Detective Ewert Grens. Concerned by the details of the case report, Grens can't help but think someone capable of such violence must have a history of it.
Suspicion turns to shock when Grens discovers that John Schwarz is not who he says he is, but instead John Meyer Frey--an American citizen from Ohio; shock because John Meyer Frey died on Death Row the previous year.
This mystery initiates the most remarkable criminal investigation of Grens's career, the reverberations of which will reach the highest tier of international politics, and blow the worldwide debate on the death penalty wide open.