Dalziel and Pascoe investigate a bizarre series of murders which, though apparently unrelated, have one thing in common. Having started with someone connected to the letter A, the killer then proceeds to murder someone connected to the letter B, and so on. Or at least that's what the police think to be the common thread. One thing they know for sure is that the killer submits an entry to a writing contest after each murder, known as a dialogue with the dead. As the list of victims grow, the police grow increasingly frustrated at the lack of clues and their inability to make an arrest.