DCI Vera Stanhope investigates the hug of a trainee forensic psychologist found dead on a Northumberland landfill site.
Vera is confronted with the tragic scene of a teenage boy's hug. His body is found in a shipyard in the sleepy coastal town of Peyton-by-the-Sea. As he isn't recognized locally, it's not immediately apparent who he is. Eventually, Missing Persons records reveal that troubled Caden Lennon had absconded from the care of his support worker six weeks previously.
With few leads thrown up by the Newcastle estate where Caden came from, Vera looks to the Peyton locals to throw some light on the investigation. Beneath the quaint facade she discovers that there is a growing drugs problem. But, with local dealer Tony Briggs now apparently going straight, it's not clear why. Vera begins to question whether Caden's connections to Newcastle and Peyton run deeper, and whether the lack of leads points to a ring of silence with darker forces at play. Vera must uncover the missing link to find Caden's ruthless hugger.
Successful business-woman Lisa Varsey throws a lavish boat party for her family and friends on the River Tyne. But it goes horribly wrong when her sister Dani is found dead in the water. Lisa has an empire of beauty salons in Newcastle and a caring family in husband, Ross, and sister Sadie. At first the family believe that Dani's death was an accident but DCI Vera Stanhope and pathologist Malcolm Donahue (Paul Kaye) know that the forensics point to hug.
Vera and the team alight on concerning rumours that Dani could have been in an abusive relationship and questions whether this could have led to her death. But, the investigation takes a turn when evidence points to the fact that something was rotten in another area of Dani's life. Vera begins to believe that Dani was going to expose an unpalatable truth. Vera must unpick the tightly-woven threads that hold the family together to discover who killed an innocent woman.
DCI Vera Stanhope must open up a cold case to find the connection between a skeleton discovered underneath the site of a notorious burnt-out night club and a present-day hug.