A wealthy real-estate mogul is brutally murdered with an axe in the quiet coastal town of Kaalbringen, apparently the second victim of a serial killer. Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, growing bored with his holiday nearby, is summoned to assist the local authorities. But as the investigation proceeds there seems to be nothing to link the mogul with the first victim, a seedy ex-con, and the police have no leads.
Then another body is discovered, again with no apparent connections to the others, and the pressure mounts. The local police chief is just days away from retirement and is determined to wrap things up before he goes. Then there´s another murder, and one of Van Veeteren´s colleagues, a brilliant young female detective, goes missing - perhaps she has reached Borkmann´s point before anyone else ...