Whilst the plot centers around a policeman, this is not a police story. In fact John McKeown emphatically dislikes being a policeman. Two teenage boys discover a murdered man at a breakers yard they had intended to rob. They are arrested on suspicion of murder, but it becomes obvious to McKeown that these were just two amateur burglars who got more than they bargained for. During the course of the investigation, McKeown discovers that Dex, 17, a parks and gardens laborer, is bringing up his younger brother and sister alone. An unlikely friendship develops as McKeown becomes impressed by what Dex is making of his life. Although living on a council estate on the fringes of Manchester, Dex has created a beautiful garden (mainly from materials he has lifted from work). McKeown and his girlfriend Sandra become regular visitors to Dex's home, inspired by this young family who seem so determined to survive. The situation changes radically when McKeown suddenly has reason to question Dex's involvement in the original murder, which raises question about the way Dex and his brother and sister came to be parentless. McKeown starts unpeeling discrepancies and lies, gleaned mainly from personal conversations. His credibility as a policeman has now sunk and his colleagues at work suspect he's heading for a breakdown. As McKeown unravels the secrets of Dex's life, he begins to take stock of his own.