It’s the half-term school holiday, and the first warm day of the year has drawn a few children to the River Swain for a swim. When one boy chases another off the path that runs alongside Hipswell Woods, a glimpse of orange through the trees tempts them deeper into the shadows. Their high spirits vanish in an instant when they find a man hanging by his neck from a branch.
Alan Banks is in London with his new girlfriend Sophia when news of the kids’ ghastly discovery reaches the police in Eastvale, so the case falls to Annie Cabbot. And she’s mystified. Why would Mark Hardcastle, a successful set and costume designer with a well-reviewed production of Othello currently playing at the recently restored Eastvale Theatre, be in such despair that he would take his own life? Or did he?
When events take a turn for the worse, Banks is called back, much to his annoyance, and he soon finds himself plunged into a shadow-world where nothing is what it seems. The deeper Banks probes, the more he discovers that no one is safe, for the evil that has been unleashed extends to his friends and family, too, and strikes at the heart of all his relationships. Now his own words about the victim’s latest production, Othello, come back to haunt him: “jealousy, betrayal, envy, ambition, greed, lust, revenge—all the colours of darkness.”