One draining murder investigation after another has left DS Jason on the brink of losing his sanity and he needs a break. A string of armed robberies at the McDonalds in the city of York are getting in the way.
Smith’s DI makes him a deal; if he can get to the bottom of it, he can have two weeks off. Smith figures out who the brains behind the robberies is; the young wife of Jimmy Phoenix, the owner of all the McDonalds franchises in the city. Smith sets off for the peaceful Yorkshire village of Scarpdale for two weeks of country air, slow walks by the lakes and no mobile phone reception. He wakes up on his first morning to find three policemen outside his room. A young woman has been found dead next to one of the lakes. Smith was seen talking to the woman the night before. The woman is Sophie Phoenix, the youngest daughter of Jimmy Phoenix. Ill equipped to deal with such a serious crime, the local police, headed by the bungling Sergeant Wilkie make no headway and Smith is begged by Jimmy Phoenix to find out what happened to his daughter. Against his better judgment, Smith agrees and starts to ask questions but the locals are not giving anything away. When Sophie’s boyfriend, Lewis Van Camp is found dead an hour before her funeral, Smith is baffled. Lewis was his odds on favourite for Sophie’s murder. Smith quickly realizes that these rival horse breeders, the Van Camps and the Phoenix’s are involved somehow. Everybody he speaks to talks of something that happened in New York the previous summer; something sinister involving these horsemen but nobody seems to know exactly what went on. Smith knows the only way to put the pieces together is to go to New York and find out for himself what happened that was so terrible that young people had to die because of it. Accompanied against his will by Sophie’s elder sister, Charlotte, Smith soon sees that the opulent world of these horsemen is much more sinister than he could ever imagine. The secret centres on the sworn enemy of the man who pleaded with Smith to help him in the first place. Smith returns to Scarpdale armed with the information he needs to apprehend the most unlikely killer he has ever come across.