December 1860. The morning shift at Swindon Locomotive Works is about to begin and an army of men is pouring out of the nearby terraced houses built by the GWR.
Frank Rodman should have been among them, but he is destined for the grave sooner than he might have expected, or he will be, once his missing head is found.But Christmas is fast approaching, and the last thing Inspector Colbeck needs is a complex case, mired in contradictions.
As he wrestles with one crime, he is alarmed to hear of another - the abduction of Superintendent Tallis.
Colbeck and Leeming find themselves in a hectic race to solve a brutal murder before rushing off to Kent in a bid to save the superintendent's life.