1860, Wimborne, Dorset. Rebecca Tullidge, miserably married to her callous husband, is having an affair with a railway officer, John Bedloe. Much to her distress, she trips over her lover's dead body on the railway tracks. Determined to win votes for the upcoming election of mayor, Mr Feltham calls for Inspector Colbeck and Sergeant Lemming to solve the hideous crime, which takes longer than anticipated. On discovering Bedloe has a town's worth of enemies as well as a sordid past, Colbeck and Leeming must unearth who is capable of plotting a violent murder. And with a pregnant wife at home, Colbeck must work quickly.