Barrister Will Travers, his wife Jane – a teacher at a Young Offenders' Centre – and daughter live in the Suffolk countryside. Natalie Chandra, a London solicitor, asks Will to defend Martin Newall, an old friend of his, accused of murdering his secretary and lover but protesting his innocence. Jane is not happy when Will takes the brief on as they had left London years earlier due to a murder case. Another killing, that of reclusive farm worker John Jarrold, takes place near to the Travers' home, the investigation being headed by D.I. Wenbon, who strongly dislikes Will after the barrister showed that one of his men lied in court to get a false conviction.
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Martin tells Will of his affair with Lucy, the victim. They would visit a hotel for sex and Martin found her dead in their room one night after going out to get a takeaway. His computer, with information about his employer Kestrel, an oil trading firm, was stolen and his loyal wife Caroline believes the theft was the reason for the murder. Will is stalked by two men not keen for him to investigate Kestrel and who know that the word Agadir was typed into the computer. In Suffolk Jane is impressed by a story written by Alan, her only bright pupil, and submits it for publication whilst the brusque, tetchy Wenborn gets it into his head that Jarrold was executed, especially when he learns that he was really animal rights activist Philip Spaull.
Will, Natalie and her junior David find 'Agadir' several times with various dates on Lucy's mobile phone. Martin, now on bail, is also asked by his boss Renner why 'Agadir' should be keyed into the computer but he is similarly puzzled. At least Natalie and Will establish that a hotel chambermaid saw the computer before Martin went out. After Wenborn's wife, suffering from post-natal depression, is arrested for shop-lifting, the grumpy detective learns that Will successfully defended Spaull when the activist was accused of putting a bomb under a research scientist's car, killing the man's little boy. Will is non-committal when Wenborn quizzes him on the trial but it transpires that Spaull later confessed his guilt to Will, thus causing his withdrawal from London and murder trials. Jane meanwhile visits Alan's mother and learns that he was imprisoned for shooting another boy who was bullying him at school.
Will and Natalie find out that Lucy had a previous conviction for blackmail and also that she was making phone calls to Jameel Khan, a journalist investigating the Kestrel company's possible exploitation of its African locations. To the horror of his kindly sergeant, Taylor, Wenborn bullies a terrified Alan into revealing who provided him with the gun with which he shot his tormenter as this was also the supplier of the gun that shot Spaull. The trail leads to Mickey Bankes, Alan's mother's boyfriend, who sold it to one John Slater, a dock worker but Slater admits that he was only a go-between and does not know the true identity of his client. An angry Wenborn slaps his wife after she has – rightly – accused him of infidelity but Jane is shocked to find that Alan has killed himself, thanks to Wenborn's threats.
Jameel Khan comes forward to say that he deliberately planted Lucy in the Qestrel office and encouraged her affair to get evidence of the firm's illegal dumping of toxic waste in Africa, collected by a ship called the Agadir. Will makes full use of this at Martin's trial, the result prompting him to return to London, which pleases Jane, who feels guilty over Alan's suicide. Wenborn attempts to blackmail John Slater by offering to let him go if he will falsely name Will as the man to whom he sold the gun that killed Philip Spaull. However Wenborn's wife, after years of domestic abuse, ensures that his triumph is short-lived and ultimately more than one injustice is avenged as wrong-doers who have escaped the law are punished.