On a bone-chilling February morning, Catherine Berlin, investigator with the Financial Services Agency, finds the almost-headless body of her informant, "Juliet Bravo", rolling in a shallow reach of the Thames. That Juliet Bravo's death is linked to an investigation of local loan shark Archie Doyle is no surprise to Berlin, but when Berlin's own unorthodox methods are blamed for the murder, she realises bigger predators are circling. To start with, it looks as though Berlin will pay only with her job. And then, on a routine trip to her GP (one of a dying breed who will still prescribe heroin to long-term addicts),
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Heroin-addicted investigator Catherine Berlin hides her scars from prying eyes while working the worst of all cases: matrimonial. The capital's junkies suffer from a drought of a different kind. A strung-out ghost from Berlin's past turns up on her doorstep with a desperate plea for help: her 10-year-old daughter is missing. Reminded of a debt owed, Berlin agrees to help, but the search becomes far more deadly than she could ever imagine, drawing her deep into an underworld of corrupt detectives, ruthless drug dealers, and a child killer....
It's the week before Christmas. Catherine Berlin sits alone gazing at a bank of monitors, each capturing a slice of a vast industrial estate. A van appears: two men delivering crates, moving quickly. Her boss tells her to ignore them, but she can't. Berlin's scars have faded, but she still walks with a limp. Broke, she's working nights as a relief CCTV operator, and looking for something more substantial. Her heroin habit is under control - only just. The night shifts end, but now Berlin herself is being watched.