London, November, 1956. DI Ted Stratton is investigating the murder of Jeremy Lloyd, a young man with a taste for esoteric religion. Stratton's enquiries lead him to Suffolk, where the mysterious Mr Roth has founded a Foundation for Spiritual Understanding. Apparently Lloyd had believed himself marked out for great things. But at the Foundation, Stratton meets 12-year-old Michael, who is proclaimed as the next incarnation in a long line of spiritual leaders.
He is rumoured amongst Roth's disciples to have been immaculately conceived, but the woman who is said to be his mother, and whose photograph was cherished by Lloyd, has disappeared. When a woman's body is found, Stratton assumes he has found “the mother”, but the reality turns out to be far stranger.
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