The focus of the story is Daniel, a solicitor chosen to represent Sebastian in court. Despite the child being quite difficult to warm to, Daniel sees something of himself in the boy and he begins to recall his own childhood as the son of a drug addict, who spent most of his time in foster care. Here the narrative splits and we discover his story in the mid-1980s interspersed in the current day court case.
Ballantyne successfully transports us back to a cold farm in the North of England where Daniel finally finds the warmth and love he has been looking for in the shape of his foster mother, Minnie. She immediately takes to this boy that no one else wants and an unlikely relationship develops between them. What becomes apparent though is that something went very wrong with the relationship and as an adult, facing the death of Minnie, and the trial of young Sebastian, Daniel is forced to confront his own childhood whilst we are left wondering who the guilty one really is.