SIMPLE, straightforward everyday murder – a shooting, a knifing, a strangulation – is one thing; the macabre, repellent, debauched torture and dismemberment of bride-to-be Ella Butterworth is quite another.
A decade into his police career Sergeant Aector McAvoy is shell-shocked by the scene he uncovers in a nondescript flat in suburban Hull.
Once the offshore fishing capital of the world, Hull in early 2012 is a city in decay, ravaged by unemployment, disinterest and organised crime.
The abduction and subsequent discovery of Ella is merely the latest in a seemingly endless parade of atrocities. This time, however, the offender has been caught.
For once, opinion in Hull is undivided: the public, the media and the law agree almost to a person that Shane Cadbury – ‘The Chocolate Boy’ – is the despicable pervert who killed this beautiful young woman.
Or is he? McAvoy, as a lone dissenting voice, is not entirely sure.
As the officer whose investigation uncovered the corpse in Cadbury’s bedroom, McAvoy struggles to blot out the heinous scene he witnessed.
Yet, deep within himself he is uneasy. It is undeniable that the lumbering, intellectually awkward social misfit was in possession of the body, but is it possible that by the time he first crossed paths with Ella she was already dead?
Complicating matters, this is not the only case in front of McAvoy and his colleagues.
Press Association journalist Owen Lee could not have chosen a worse time to die. Having driven to a carpark at the northern end of the Humber Bridge, intent on diving into the murky, tempestuous estuary, Lee blunders into the midst of a gangland assassination. In a Sliding Doors moment, an instinctive desperation supplants despair and he reacts without thinking.
Now, his unintended survival is the trigger for a growing trail of missteps that explodes when professional duty draws him into Cadbury’s courtroom.