One cold autumn night, a woman is found hanging from a beam at her holiday cottage. At first sight, it appears to be suicide; María had never recovered from the death of her mother and she had a history of depression. But then the friend who found her body approaches Detective Erlendur with a tape of a séance that María attended before her death and his curiosity is aroused. Erlendur begins an unofficial investigation into María's death. But he is also haunted by another unsolved mystery – the disappearance of two young people 30 years ago – and by his own quest to find the body of his brother, who died in a blizzard when he was a boy.