British writer Butler has crafted a grim tale that unsuccessfully blends murder with social commentary. In 1946, newly promoted detective-constable John Coffin arrives in Greenwich to take up his post. Soon after, the body of a young woman floats down the Thames to South London. It quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary murder: the victim has been strangled, stabbed and mutilated. Attached to the body is a note reading "Present for my mother," a reference to former actress Rachel Esthart, whose son drowned under mysterious circumstances 17 years previously, and who has just received a postcard promising an imminent gift from the boy, whose death she has never acknowledged. Then two other bodies are found in the river, murdered in the same brutal way.