This is a fairly standard police procedural featuring DI Graham Harland, who works with Bristol CID. In the opening scene, D.I. Harland is called to a club in a run-down part of the city, where a body has been found in the gents’ toilet. It is an extremely sadistic murder. The man has been hit on the head and subsequently, while still alive, has had his eyes, nose and mouth sealed with Superglue. He has suffocated as a result.
The victim is soon identified as a small-time drug dealer, but the crime is so vicious that Harland feels it needs a thorough investigation. He is therefore extremely annoyed when his boss takes him off the case to deal with the disappearance of a young woman. Harland is wanted on this case because he recently interviewed the missing woman's ex-boyfriend, Matt Garrick, in connection with a burglary at his flat, and Matt is a possible suspect in the case of the missing Laura. Harland's one consolation is being given D.S. Imogen Gower as his assistant, a bright and attractive addition to the force. They interview Matt, who insists that he had broken up with Laura some time before her disappearance, and had not seen her since. Matt is a pleasant and open young man, and Harland doesn't believe he is involved.
At this point the plot deviates from the standard police procedural. The action shifts away from the police investigation and switches to Matt's neighbour on the floor above. Nigel Reynolds, three months earlier. Nigel is in the digital photography business and works mainly from home touching up and altering images. He is reclusive and nerdish, with a huge chip on his shoulder. He becomes acquainted with Matt, who is everything that he would like to be. He becomes obsessed with Matt, copying his style of dress, and moving his furniture around to correspond with Matt's on the floor below. When Matt starts going out with Laura, he becomes infatuated with her as well.
I must admit that I found the continuous switching from the police to Nigel irritating, mainly because he is such an unappealing character. The book only really came alive for me in the last few chapters, when other elements entered the story, leading to a really exciting finish.