Greymouth, New Zealand, 1866: The Burgess gang is heading towards town, and a young surveyor from one of the country's leading families has vanished. Inspector James is preparing for trouble.
In the gold-mining town of Greymouth, where drunks fall asleep smoking and burn down their houses, the town is constantly inundated with floods, and fifty-seven hotels have sprung up in a year to accommodate the hordes of miners and gold thieves, Inspector William Henry James is tasked with keeping the town safe with a small force of troopers.
In 1888, forced into retirement by government cuts, James walks home beside the Whanganui River remembering his association with a series of murders by the notorious Burgess gang: back in 1866 he had forced the gang to leave Greymouth. The gang took a steamer up to Nelson and within days killed five men on the Maungatapu Track. Soon after, Inspector James discovered the body of a young surveyor, George Dobson, murdered by Burgess and his crew. The gang was gone, but one guilty man remained, and James was determined to bring him to trial. The events that transpired haunted him for the rest of his life.