Two men in Hadestone Prison are approaching the end of their sentences for burglary and assault. James Carson is well educated but brutal; Toddy Shaw is a cheerful cockney who considers burglary a sport. Trouble flares in the chapel, and both Shaw and Carson are involved. Eventually both men are released, but old hatreds fester.
Toddy gets work on leaving prison, wanting to do right by his wife and family. Carson, released later, soon comes looking for Toddy.
Then a nightwatchman at a bank is murdered - a former prison guard at Hadestone - and Chief Inspector Holby will need to prove himself a match for whatever dark mind is on the loose . . .