It's 1953. Although DS Emmanuel Cooper has been reassigned from Durban CID to Marshall Square in Johannesburg, his fourth case returns him uncomfortably to his roots in neighboring Sophiatown.
Teenager Cassie Brewer was at home when two thieves broke in, beat her parents badly and drove off in the family Mercedes. And she’s certain who the miscreants were: a pair of St. Bartholomew’s College students named Kibelo Nkhato and Aaron Shabalala, whom Cassie's parents—Ian, the school principal, and Martha, a secretary at the office of land management—had entertained at dinner shortly before the assault. The first suspect provides an alibi, but the second can’t, and as the evidence against him mounts, it looks like an open-and-shut case. Emmanuel (Blessed Are the Dead, 2012, etc.) would make the arrest and turn without a second thought to his Christmas vacation if Aaron Shabalala weren’t the son of his longtime friend Zulu/Shangaan DC Samuel Shabalala. If Aaron is innocent, as he claims, why is he so determined not to cooperate with the authorities, and why is Cassie so insistent that he’s guilty? Emmanuel's temporary boss, Lt. Walter Mason, congratulates him on his great work finding the stolen car and removes him from the case; but Emmanuel keeps going, joining up with his friend Samuel and Dr. Daniel Zweigman—a Holocaust survivor he's asked to treat another victim of the thieves even though that would mean crossing the color line—to find the truth. Never mind if his defiance exposes Emmanuel’s secret liaison with a mixed-race lover, Davida Ellis, and the child he’s fathered.
There’s never much doubt who’s really behind the attacks on Ian and Martha Brewer, but Nunn, who provides enough action and suspicion to keep the pot boiling, doesn’t need much of a mystery to bring the sad racial divisions of apartheid once more into sharp relief.