When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. Quine has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives. That means that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced. When Quine is found brutally murdered, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before.