Toby Turner didn’t expect to stumble upon the remains of a human skeleton, washed down from the cliff top by a recent landslip.
He runs a small bookshop in the quiet seaside town of Lyme Regis in Dorset. His life’s not quite on track; his bookshop’s not doing too well, for one thing, and he’s not sure his relationship with his girlfriend-cum-fiancé Trisha is going anywhere either – at least, nowhere she would like it to go.
Toby takes a walk along the Blue Lias cliffs on Monmouth Beach to think things through, and here he finds the body of a woman; a woman, it transpires, who was murdered in 1978.
The gruesome discovery and the resulting media attention he receives would have been hard enough to cope with, but he soon suspects the woman who keeps coming into his shop is the woman from the Blue Lias, that he is being haunted by the very woman he found on the beach.
What’s more, he finds himself falling for her, eventually feeling he is unable to live without her. Is she real, or is he imagining things? His strange obsession starts to have a negative effect on his life and his health, which begins to deteriorate.
He decides to try and solve the mystery of her death and why she chose him, of all people, hoping by discovering what happened to her all those years ago they can both find peace. And so begins Toby Turner’s bizarre journey of discovery that will lead him into very dark and dangerous territory.
His search leads him to a hotel that used to stand high on the cliff, lost to a landslide in the 1980s, and to an old musician called Steely Jacobs who appears to be linked to the dead woman. But events take an unexpectedly disturbing contemporary turn when Toby discovers his best friend Mark has been secretly amassing information on a number of missing young women going back a decade or more.
He learns about Mark’s secret past and how he’d been implicated in the murder of his teenage girlfriend. Is this tragic death connected to the list of missing young women he’s made? And what has their disappearance got to do with the body Toby discovered on the beach, a woman murdered thirty-five years ago? How is all this connected to the mysterious hotel called the Belle Vue, long ago collapsed into the sea, and the aged guitarist called Steely Jacobs?
Not only has he uncovered a body, Toby Turner had inadvertently scuffed away the thin covering of dirt from dark, long-held secrets that will lead him into a corrupt world of vice and murder. His life will never be the same again.