Inspector Kurt Wallander's long-anticipated vacation plans are interrupted by two horrific deaths: the self-immolation of an unidentified young woman and the brutal murder of the former minister of justice. As the police struggle to piece together the few clues they have, the killer strikes again and again. What connection is there between a retired minister of justice, a successful art dealer, and a common petty thief? Why does the killer scalp his victims? And could there be some connection between the young woman's death and the murders?