Four women meet at a Manchester university party in 1975 and become close friends. Over the following thirty years, their lives are shaped by their childhoods, their relationships with men, and the backdrop of rapid changes in society for women. When one of the four, Linda Hammond, is found dead, suspicion falls on her use of Svelte, a widely prescribed slimming drug linked to numerous deaths. Also in the frame of suspicion is an eminent cardiologist who arranged an illegal abortion for Linda when he was a medical student, the knowledge of which could finish his career. Concerns about the high number of deaths amongst Svelta users are picked up by two investigative journalists. They uncover the manipulation of the clinical trial data on which the drug was licensed and the readiness of Sipher Pharmaceutical to rebut any concern over the drug's safety. Linda's death dramatically changes all the women's lives, laying bare deceit, a lack of personal integrity and corporate greed.