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A series of suspicious deaths has rocked Hull, a port city in England as old and mysterious as its bordering sea. In the middle of a Christmas service, a teenage girl adopted from Sierra Leone is chopped down with a machete in front of the entire congregation.
A retired trawler man is found dead at the scene of a tragedy he escaped, the only survivor, forty years ago. An ugly fire rages in a working-class neighbourhood, and when the flames die away, a body is discovered, burned beyond recognition.
Detective Sergeant Hector McAvoy is sure there is a connection between these crimes, but his fellow officers are not convinced. They would rather get a quick arrest than bother themselves with finding the true killer.
Torn between his police duties and his aching desire to spend more time with his pregnant wife and young son, McAvoy is an unlikely hero: a family man more obsessed with being a decent cop, a physically imposing man far more comfortable exploring databases that being gung-ho with his muscle.
Compelled by his keen sense of justice, McAvoy decides to strike out alone but in the depths of the dark winter, on the hunt for a murderer, it’s difficult to forget what happened the last time he found himself on the wrong side of a killer’s blade.