Three children are massacred in their beds. The crushed corpse of their mother is discovered in a dockside warehouse. Then the husband, Bruno Gottewald, is dead and buried killed while out on field manoeuvres. In less than a week the entire Gottewald family has been wiped off the face of the earth. A tragic coincidence? Or are the invading French army using the massacre to expand their power? Hanno Stiffeniis, a Prussian magistrate, goes to investigate the deaths, seeking to discover how the crime was committed and the motive behind the massacre. But only Hanno s wife, Helena, knows what truly happened in that cottage . . .