A young woman's death leads Quirke, consultant pathologist at Dublin's Holy Family Hospital, to uncover a secret in the city's high Catholic society that involves members of his own family.
Quirke investigates an apparent death by overdose. It looks like suicide but when another woman dies in similar circumstances, Quirke fears that Phoebe may also be drawn into Dublin's drug culture.
Phoebe asks Quirke to help her search for her missing friend, April. Quirke fears that April has come to harm, but her family try to hush up her disappearance.