August 1958. London is hot and tired, and nowhere more so than Notting Hill, where DI Stratton has just been posted.
Stratton's new manor is dirt poor and rife with racial tension. The end of the war saw a flood of Caribbean migrants. Now, a decade later, working-class Teddy Boys are showing mounting hostility towards their black neighbours.
Notorious landlord Danny Perlmann, a Polish refugee, is taking full advantage of others' reluctance to rent to the immigrants - or to prostitutes - and is making a fortune off the high rents he charges. Caught in the middle of this war over rents and turf is Irene, a young runaway on the verge of going on the game.
When Perlmann's rent collector is murdered, Stratton is called to investigate. Notting Hill is a cauldron, soon to be the scene of the worst racial violence England has ever known, and Stratton is right at the heart of it.