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When a former soldier and recluse murders two 17-year-old students at a posh Edinburgh boarding school, Army investigators show up to snoop around the scene of the crime, and links between the killer and a local group of "Goths" begin to surface. Just as Rebus finds himself in the thick of the murder inquiry, he's threatened with suspension from the police force because a man who has been menacing his partner dies in the same fire that has left Rebus with horrible, painful burns. Rebus must solve the boarding school killing and try to clear his own name.