During an intense heatwave, members of the West Wiltshire Regiment are engaged in a demanding military exercise prior to deployment to Afghanistan. At the conclusion of a mock assault on the final day, Private John Smith is missing. Subsequent searches of the vast exercise area fail to find him, and fears grow for his survival in such excessive temperatures without adequate water. While Smith's sergeant is adamant the man has gone AWOL, 26 Section, Special Investigation Branch, receives an anonymous phone call: Don't bother looking for Smith. Someone's finally done him in. Military detectives Max Rydal and Tom Black soon discover Smith was universally despised, which leaves them with an entire platoon of suspects ...until Dan Farley, the new Platoon Commander, also goes missing. What is the link between this young lieutenant, and a squaddie who appears to have been in league with a local German crime syndicate? Have they both gone AWOL, or is there something sinister behind their disappearance?