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.
The central character is Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope. Who is obsessive about her work and driven by her own demons. If she's lonely she doesn't show it and faces the world with caustic wit, guile and courage. Her trusted and long suffering colleague is Sergeant Joe Ashworth. Together they approach every new case with unparalleled gusto and professionalism.