Hesta Web, with her hot red hair and her tough, guarded coldness, is trapped with a mother who hates her and a father who is mostly away earning money on an oil rig. When Hesta discovers that her mother and her mother's lover have had rampant sex in Hesta's bed, she absconds with her friend Janey to the seaside.
It is the last day of the season, sun bright and sea sparkling. The bars and shops are open, the funfair spins round with shrieks and shouts. As night falls, the illuminations go on. But when Janey catches the last train to London, Hesta stays behind. She falls in with the gothic-looking, unpleasantly attractive Skilt and his subject colony of junkies and beggars. In a rotting hotel on the front, among the broken marble balustrades, the mouse-eaten rooms and the bonfire in the ballroom, Hesta takes up her new life. She hears drugged legends told beside the fire, the rumours of ghosts and the strangeness of the sea.
For now the season has ended, the seaside is deserted, the illuminations are switched off, this place is very strange. Does Skilt know its secret? Should Hesta be wary of the blond man who watches her from the pier? And what happens when the lights go out?