urt Wallander is a police inspector in the Swedish town of Ystad. Shortly after he has seen a young girl kill herself by self-immolation, he is called to investigate the murder of government minister Wetterstedt. He has been scalped. Wealthy business-man Carlman is murdered in the same fashion, and a serial killer is clearly responsible. Drunken ex-journalist Lars Magnusson points Wallander towards Sandin, a retired and corrupt cop, who admits that he once 'cleaned up' for both the dead men but will offer no more information. The next murder is that of an habitual criminal, who has been tortured before death. His estranged wife and teen aged son are not grief-stricken. His behaviour has traumatized his younger son and sent his daughter into a mental hospital. Following another scalping, and an appeal to the public, a former prostitute tells Wallander that all the victims were connected with a vice ring, importing very young girls into Sweden. The girl who killed herself was probably among them. A raid on Sandin's house reveals girls lined up for the sex trade concealed in his cellar. He is clearly the next intended victim of the scalper and Wallander has no qualms in using him as bait in the trap.

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