A Place of Execution is a chilling tale set in rural Derbyshire, and woven around the disappearance of Alison Carter, a teenage girl. The year is 1963, and the place is the (fictional) backwater village of Scardale; secluded from modern life, populated by only a few families who have been inbreeding for generations; and ruled, like in medieval days, by a squire who owns everybody and everything in the village. And it is none other than the stepdaughter of much-hated new squire Phillip Hawkin, a newcomer to Scardale's tight-knit society, who has disappeared.
Following the investigation led by newly minted D.I. and Jimmy-Stewart-look-alike George Bennett and his more experienced partner, Sergeant Tommy Clough, we as readers slowly become familiar with Scardale and its inhabitants, who are reluctant to open up to outsiders – even if they don't hate them as much as Hawkin – and in that reluctance, provide less than the much-needed help in discovering Alison. In fact, when ultimately a suspect is arrested, on the strength of evidence tying him to both Alison's disappearance and another horrific crime, Alison is still missing. And she remains missing throughout the suspect's trial. It will take all of 35 years and a new investigation by journalist Catherine Heathcoate, who befriends Bennett after having met his son Paul, and who is able to procure Paul's help in convincing Bennett to revisit those long-past events which never ceased to trouble him, to reveal a truth which by then seemed all but buried for good ... and like the story's protagonists, many a reader may be left wondering whether this is not the way it should have stayed.