On a notorious street where propriety and decadence clash, in the basement of a newly renovated bar, the bones of a woman and child are discovered beneath a cement floor. It's an unusually gruesome find, even for Fleshmarket Alley. When Inspector John Rebus is called to investigate, every fact he finds unleashes a host of new questions. Are the bones those of a mother and child? Are they actual human remains or fakes? Were they planted there - and if so, why? It could be nothing more than a ruthless and enterprising pub owner looking to create a local legend that will help lure trade. Or it could be something far worse - something as grisly as the death of a recent immigrant found brutally murdered at a local housing project, or the murder of Donald Cruikshank, a recently paroled rapist whose body is found just as a young woman goes missing. The missing girl is a friend of Inspector Rebus's colleague Detective Siobhan Clarke, and Siobhan is shocked to find herself in the same intricate web of murderers as Rebus - all somehow tied to that pile of bones under Fleshmarket Alley. In a race to stop the killings before more bodies turn up - even as the possibility of romantic entanglements distracts and entices them - Rebus and Siobhan plumb the darkest corners of their beloved city and confront the lawless, conscienceless men who dwell there.
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