Henry Hallward, editor of the Sydney Chronicle, has been imprisoned for criminal libel so often he can edit the newspaper from his cell.
While awaiting trial during one of his imprisonments, Hallward boasts of a story that will destroy several powerful people. But before he can finish it he is killed, and Monsarrat and Mrs Mulrooney are sent to investigate.
After Monsarrat meets with Colonel Duchamp, the governor's right-hand man, it is clear the duo are on their own in solving this murder. And it seems there are many who had reason to wish Hallward dead. There is Gerald Mobbs, editor of the Chronicle's rival newspaper. There is Duchamp's sister, Henrietta, who can't quite hide her cunning behind her ladylike exterior. And there is Albert Bancroft, an eminence grise whose property dealings seem to put him in an ideal position to have carried out the killing.
Monsarrat and Mrs Mulrooney must sift through the suspects, unravel hidden agendas and navigate shifting loyalties, aware that at any moment Duchamp could ignominiously dismiss them, leaving Hallward's murder unsolved and the independence of the colony's press in grave jeopardy. And when a young boy is kidnapped, it becomes clear freedom of speech may not be the only casualty.