A young girl is found dead in a house on Stanley Street... but it's just the start of a complex puzzle which Wycliffe must unravel.
A dubious cul-de-sac just off the busy main road in a sprawling West Country port, Stanley Street is definitely not a salubrious place. And the victim, found naked and strangled in her bed is, appropriately enough, a prostitute.
The local inspector believes it is just another sex crime, but Chief Superintendent Wycliffe is not convinced. For the victim, Lily Painter, is the kind of girl who likes Beethoven and has lots of 'O' and 'A' levels to her name - not the usual sort of prostitute at all. And when Wycliffe goes digging into her background, he comes up with plenty of surprises, not least a shadowy connection with property speculators and drug smugglers.
But it takes a dangerous arson attack and a second murder before the solution to this complex and fast-moving puzzle can be found...