With Wycliffe recovering from Patrick Durno's attempt to kill him, Kersey takes charge when Farmer Miller wages war on anglers legally fishing on his land. When a salmon poacher is found dead Lucy Lane resents Kersey's leading the enquiry and makes an unsuccessful promotion bid, but Kersey reels in the killer himself. Wycliffe rejects early retirement and returns to work.
Kim, a prostitute, informs Doug Kersey that a punter told her that, three nights earlier, he murdered another lady of the night. Kersey is initially sceptical but evidence points to James Lassiter, a neighbour of Wycliffe, formerly acquitted of a sex crime but logged as a kerb crawler. However, a regular user of prostitutes hangs himself by a lake, and, when it is dredged, Mrs. Lassiter's corpse is found. Her husband was aware of her obsession with playing at being a prostitute and played along to please her. Lucy Lane gets back with journalist ex-lover Angus.
Sophie Cattran, wife of Doug Kersey's friend Mike, goes missing after her evening class and her belongings are found at the Devil's Gateway, standing stones linked to the entrance to Hell in local superstition. After the class tutor has been found murdered Mike explains that his wife disappeared once before, without her medication, and almost killed somebody. Sophie reappears but the police are involved in a dash to the Devil's Gateway to prevent another slaying.
Climber Gareth Denton is killed in a cliff fall. A less than reliable witness drunkenly proclaims in the local pubs that he was murdered by his climbing partner, the obsessive Hugh Barrington, and a reconstruction tends to bear this out. Wycliffe suspects that Barrington is guilty but cannot find a motive. Lucy Lane, meanwhile, is pregnant and decides to bring up the baby on her own, having split again with boyfriend Angus.
Policeman Alan Trier is murdered and the abrasive Deputy Chief Constable Roth orders Wycliffe to avoid any scandal which would attract outside criticism in his investigation, given that Trier's wife had been having an affair with another officer - making them the obvious suspects. However, nothing is ever obvious to Wycliffe. . .
Wycliffe is snapped with a tele-photo lens apparently giving money to Susan Brookes, who once helped him put her homicidal spouse away. He is accused of taking bribes when thirty thousand pounds is put into his account and he is suspended. Lucy, investigating the murder of two drug dealers, takes immediate maternity leave to help him and they discover that Selby, a notorious computer hacker and the ex-cell-mate of Susan's husband, is responsible. A showdown at Land's End also ties in with Lucy's investigation.