Marjory Fleming is Scottish, a sheepfarmer's wife, a mother of two, and a police detective inspector in Galloway whose home and family are her refuge from the violence of her job. Laura is a psychologist, wracked with guilt after the death of her marriage and her mother, who determines to find out what happened to her older half-sister who left home 15 years ago. Laura's search takes her to rural Galloway, where her sister stayed with an extraordinary family who are top bull breeders. It is 2001, and with foot and mouth having just broken out, Dumfries and Galloway is one of the first places hit. The bulls are killed, and a body discovered when their field is ploughed up for burial of the carcasses. And DI Fleming - 'Big Marge' to her men - can't go home, where her husband is having to destroy his own animals, because of the murder investigation ...