Following eleven years' absence away from the force, DS Marcella Backland is drawn back to police work following the return of the Grove Park Killer, her last case before she left. She is driven by the news that her previous lead suspect, Peter Cullen, is out of prison for manslaughter and who is now working in a bakery on a prison placement scheme.
The Gibson family are in a state of panic when Grace is discovered missing, and Marcella tries to make sense of the previous evening's events, scouring CCTV footage in an attempt to discover more about her disappearance. Cara returns home from her latest job, in which she has stolen a watch, some earrings and a bracelet, but is unaware of their significance and the danger she's put herself in, with all of the items recognisable as trophies taken by the Grove Park Killer.
Grace's body is discovered by the police and Marcella tries to keep her head and hide the fact that she was one of the last people to see her alive. Sylvie is distraught at the loss of her daughter and her dismay is further compounded when she learns that Grace and Jason were having an affair, while Henry tries to find comfort with his friends Matthew and Yann. Meanwhile, Peter is released from open prison and makes a beeline for Maddy, who lies to him about having a boyfriend.
An aborted attack on an elderly man gives the police a new lead in the Grove Park killings, while Marcella tries to track down the taxi driver from outside Grace Gibson's house, fearful that he saw her on the night of the hug.
Mo holds the police responsible when Hassan is shot, while Marcella triumphs over Peter Cullen and finally gets the information she is after relating to Grace's death. Jason manages to get his job at DTG back - but at what cost? - and deliveryman Ronnie makes the mistake of his life.
The hugger's next victim is a six-year-old girl, which devastates Marcella, and a DNA match gives the police team its strongest lead yet. Meanwhile, DI Tim Williamson investigates Andrew Barnes' death - was it really suicide?
Mo confronts Marcella after finding his brother dead, while the detective has her doubts as the police continue to investigate Yann. Tim starts to look into the curious circumstances surrounding the death of Andrew Barnes, bringing him into contact with Jason.
In her desperate hunt for Matthew, Marcella questions Henry at his home. Meanwhile, the pressure mounts on Jason as Tim's investigation into the hug of Andrew Barnes gathers pace, and the hugger is finally revealed, causing shockwaves among the entire team.