When Frank Sterling sets up on his own account as a private detective, his first client, the enigmatic Gloria Etchingham, asks him to investigate a curious line of text and numbers among her disappeared husband's papers. The mystery takes him on a journey to Ypres and the Flanders battlefields of the Great War. A series of further clues, and the race to solve them, lead to murder and kidnapping against a backdrop of political extremism and personal betrayal. Is Keith Etchingham alive or dead? Who are the men pursuing Sterling ? What is the real reason for his involvement? In finding all the answers, Sterling has to confront his own flaws as well as the dangers the case brings.