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At a country club with a golf course, a man leaves in a car while he looks at an older man, James (Anthony Bate). Next, we see the same man, Denis (Gareth Forwood), visiting his mother (Phillida Sewell) in a nursing home. He tells her he will sort things out; she has trouble remembering who he is. Next, three men enter a house at night in order to catch someone who has been seen breaking into the house. Inside, a young man and woman are having sex, but are soon chased out of the house; the man gets away. The police arrive just as one of the men goes back into the house to look for the owner. He finds Denis hanging from a rope, dead and half naked.

A man in bed silences his pager, a woman looks at him blamingly. Police officers at the scene of the crime wait for DCI Raymond, who is not returning their calls. Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren) is in her office on the phone with Mike Keenan, but is paged to assist with the murder investigation. She is happy to get something to do other than crunching numbers and is soon at the scene. She learns from an officer, Booth (Thomas Craig), that Denis Carradine lived alone in his mother's house and that he was the manager of the Huntington Country Club. Tennison sets a search in motion for the escaped man, then goes to Hadley Green police station to see the girl who was caught, Sheila Bower (Julie Rice). She turns out to be underage, and Tennison calls in a social worker as well as reinforcements for the investigation. Meanwhile, Booth informs Denis's mother of her son's death.

The next morning, Tennison has Richard Haskons (Richard Hawley) by her side, and they gather the local team, including officers Booth and Bakari (Cristopher John Hale) as well as female officer Christine Cromwell (Sophie Stanton). Tennison fills them in on what is known so far and gives them instructions; she says the break-in may be drugs-related, but also thinks there might be a sexual aspect because of the scarf Carradine was wearing. Tennison interrogates Sheila Bower, who denies having killed Carradine. DCI Raymond (Ralph Arliss) walks in during the interrogation, but Tennison takes him outside. He says he can take over the investigation now, but Tennison insists she will stay in charge.

Bakari and Cromwell go to the country club to ask about Carradine. They are shown into managing director James Greenlees's office and snoop around until he enters. He has already heard the bad news; he tells them that Carradine had recently retired from his position at the club. Tennison and Haskons listen to the forensic, who concludes that Carradine did not kill himself. The house has been robbed and much of the interior damaged. Meanwhile, house-to-house inquiries pay off when the police find the man who got away, Michael Thomas (Jonathan Copestake), at a housing estate called Larchmont. As they chase him he runs into the street and is hit by a van.

At the hospital, Tennison is angry that the search ended up with the suspect in a coma. Back at the station, the team learns that Carradine had re-mortgaged the house, yet was still in dept and struggling to pay his bills. James Greenlees comes to see Tennison about the way he found Bakari and Cromwell handling some letters in his office, and she reprimands them, telling Cromwell she should expect no favours just because she's a woman. Booth interviews Mrs. Henry (Jill Baker), Carradine's solicitor and childhood friend, who says he was a lonely man. At her office, Tennison asks Haskons out for a drink, but he has to go home. She is also informed that Michael Thomas has died. Tennison goes for a drink on her own and meets DCI Raymond, who is with Cromwell at the bar. He tells her she shouldn't think she can come and teach them how to do their job.

At the country club, a man named Paul Endicott (James Laurenson) is at the bar commanding his son, Hamish (Nick Patrick), to serve him quicker. Paul's wife (Helene Kvale) is at a table talking to solicitor Maria Henry about how her life with Paul has suffered since he was suspended from his job at the council. Mrs. Henry tries to speak to Paul about something important. Tennison goes shopping; she gets two big bottles of liquor. From her car she phones Dr. Paul Schofield, who she met on her previous case, but gets his answering machine.

The next day, Tennison goes to see the pathologist, who gives her his findings: Whoever killed Carradine tried to make it look like Carradine had died by erotic autostrangulation. Superintendent Kernan (John Benfield) comes to see Tennison and takes her out for breakfast. There will be an investigation into Michael Thomas's death, and Kernan thinks Tennison has overstayed her welcome at Hadley Green. She convinces him that Michael and Sheila did not kill Carradine and that she should stay and solve the case. In return, he makes her promise to go to a meeting with the Police Consultative Committee, the head of which is James Greenlees.

Tennison goes to the station and tells the squad to start looking for the real killer. She informs Sheila Bower of Thomas's death, and Bowen accuses the police of killing him. It's Christine Cromwell, who like Bowen grew up in the estates, who ends up convincing her to speak. Sheila and Michael were breaking into a different house at the time of Carradine's death. The police also look into Carradine's economy; he paid a large sum to a company based in Bahamas, which is also linked to Mrs. Henry's law firm. Mrs. Henry declines comment due to attorney-client confidentiality.

Booth and Bakari talk to bartender Hamish at the country club. He tells them Carradine had been stealing from the club for months and covering it up by fiddling the books. He says the club just found out the week before and that DCI Raymond was brought in to deal with the matter. Tennison confronts Raymond with this information, and he admits that he kept it a secret. Meanwhile, we see Maria Henry's daughter Polly (Kelly Reilly), first inviting a man, Geoff (Thomas Russell), into the house she lives in with her mother, then at the club talking to Hamish; Hamish expresses his dislike for his father.

A witness has given a description of a woman seen visiting Carradine's house earlier in the day on which he was killed. The description matches Maria Henry, and Tennison and Haskons go to see her again; she refuses having been in contact with Carradine on the day of the murder and presents an alibi. They also go to Burdett House, a property purchased by the Bahamas-based company from the local council at a price may may have been much less than what it was worth. At the Consultative Committee meeting, Tennison defends the fact that Sheila Bower has been released, then learns that the sale of Burdett House underwent an investigation headed by Greenlees and leading to Paul Endicott's suspension.

In the morning, Tennison learns that Denis Carradine's car has been found torched in front of Mrs. Henry's house that night. Mrs. Henry has no explanation. The team look into the financial dealings of the people involved. Haskons interviews Mr. Greenlees, who tells him Denis Carradine was a homosexual and needed money for prostitutes. The interview is interrupted by Raymond. At the country club, Polly and Geoff are at the bar, and Geoff and Hamish have an argument. Mrs. Henry comes in to take Polly away, but is interrupted by the police, who want her to identify a man in a photograph taken of Carradine's stolen car. The photo looks a lot like Geoff, but she says she doesn't recognize him. Tennison and Cromwell go see Paul Endicott to ask him about the sale of Burdett House, but he is unwilling to talk.

At the meeting of the local council, headed by James Greenlees, there is shouting and disorder over irregularities in the council's work. When Greenlees sees Cromwell in the crowd she accuses her and Tennison of politicizing. Mike Kernan calls Tennison in and announces she and Cromwell are both off the case and that he will have no more conspiracy theories, but Tennison hints that sensitive information may end up in the papers if she doesn't get her way. At the station, Tennison tells Cromwell that she's not suspended.

Meanwhile at Maria Henry's house, Paul Endicott has stayed the night, whereas Polly has stayed out all night with Geoff. We see Polly and Geoff together at his flat at Larchmont Estate. He attacks her, and Polly comes to the police station to press charges. Tennison talks to her, and when Polly gives a description of Geoff she realizes he might be who they're looking for. But when she and the team go to pick him up he is dead in his flat. A witness says a man and a redheaded woman knocked on Geoff's door a while ago.

Maria Henry is called in for questioning. Cromwell asks her about the sale of Burdett House, which was sold cheaply to Carradine by the council, but which became worthless when the irregularity was discovered and the valuable planning permissions were withdrawn; Henry denies any involvement. Tennison asks her about her relationship with Paul Endicott, but she denies that they are more than friends. Tennison asks her about Geoff, and she denies knowing him. Tennison tells her she thinks she and Endicott had first Denis and then Geoff killed, but Maria Henry is a lawyer and knows Tennison can't prove it.

Tennison and Cromwell interrogate Paul Endicott. He protests his innocence, but they pressure him. He gives a statement that it was Maria Henry who paid Geoff to kill Carradine and then killed Geoff. However, forensic evidence from the flat does not provide evidence against Henry nor Endicott. They continue the interrogation of Maria Henry, but she still denies the allegations, saying Endicott is a drunk and a liar. James Greenlees comes by to ask that Endicott be released, and Tennison bites his head off.

Hamish Endicott has been brought in. He confesses that he killed Geoff because someone told him Geoff had raped Polly. He won't say who. Instead, Tennison interrogates Polly Henry, with her mother by her side. Tennison tells Polly she could go to prison if she was the one who made Hamish kill Geoff, but also makes sure Polly understands that it was really Maria. Polly's pain finally breaks Maria's facade. She admits everything.

Tennison and Cromwell share a cigarette outside the station and talk about politics.
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