Harborough is a large seaside town on the north-east coast of England, whose local paper, the Harborough Post, mounts a campaign against the city’s funfairs. Soon the proprietor of the newspaper, Herbert Litmore, gets two anonymous threatening letters, which he takes to the Chief Constable. Then Litmore’s ten-year-old son, Ben, is kidnapped on his way home from the city Youth Club.

Another letter to Litmore follows, demanding a £10,000 ransom . . .

A search is begun to locate Litmore’s mysterious enemy, and the police investigation starts to unravel a web of greed, jealousy, adultery and blackmail that has formed beneath Harborough’s quiet surface.