"Reading the new Rebus was like settling under a soft, beloved blanket albeit one with sharp nails sewn in to it. "
Rebus is back. He is employed in the Serious Crime Review Unit, working as a civilian looking at cold cases, although his particular unit is at threat of being merged into a larger co-ordinated group. He is glad to be back investigating crime but is no better at tolerating officiousness and ambition in his fellows. He even has a desire to return to detecting now that the official retirement age has changed. Rebus has a burning passion to see the criminal brought to account for his crimes, and is happy to allow a little deviation from the accepted rules.
Rebus is contacted by the mother of a girl missing for twelve years. She is convinced that her disappearance is linked to several other cases and has been in contact with the police over the years. As another girl has gone missing in the previous few days Rebus links up with his old colleague, Siobhan Clarke, to see if there is any connection. Siobhan, now Detective Inspector works well with her old boss, but there is a very different relationship between the two. She is the boss but Rebus can't help making suggestions.
The link between the various disappearances seems to be the A9, the road heading up towards Inverness. Rebus starts contacting those involved in the previous disappearances, collecting past files and making use of his contacts in Edinburgh's underworld, all without official sanctions or knowledge. Rebus soon comes under the scrutiny of Malcolm Fox in the Complaints department. Rebus' maverick ways do not go down well with the meticulous Fox. When Rebus comes up with some useful leads he finds himself assigned on a temporary basis to work with Siobhan. Together they track down the victims and solve the disappearances, although not all were as expected.