Bruce Robertson is a detective sergeant serving in Edinburgh's "Lothian Constabulary". Robertson is a Machiavellian, intensely misanthropic man who spends his time indulging in cocaine and alcohol abuse, sexually abusive relationships, compulsive gorging on junk food, and, most of all, his penchant for "the games" – Bruce's euphemism for the myriad foul plots he hatches directed at workmates. He is able to pander to all of his vices during his annual holidays in Amsterdam.
The novel begins by introducing the murder of Efan Wurie, a case Bruce has been assigned. The plot has little to do with the actual crime, instead the novel traces Bruce throughout his life, told in a first-person, stream-of-consciousness style. Through narrative devices such as the tapeworm he acquires, the reader explores the facets of Bruce's personality and learns about his past, as well as the various tedious police routines Bruce absconds from, his often-backfiring sexual endeavours, and his various short or long-termed schemes and plots against his colleagues (ultimately in order to raise his chances of gaining the hoped-for promotion to Detective Inspector). Apart from the general malevolent scheming, along the way Bruce Robertson also seeks to satisfy his cravings for violence, drugs, sex, and pornography whilst happily voicing his racism, sectarianism and misogyny and pining for his ex-wife.
As the novel progresses, Bruce's mental health begins to deteriorate; it is revealed that he suffers from drug addiction and bipolar disorder, which, along with his inability to form meaningful, trust-based relationships, are exacerbated by latent, unresolved psychological issues caused by childhood abuses. Eventually Bruce is forced into taking leave due to injuries he suffers while dressed as his ex-wife, leading to the revelation that he committed the racially-motivated murder that serves as the novel's main plot, and that the colleagues he despises – particularly his boss Robert Toal – have been aware of his guilt all along, and have been protecting him from the consequences of his actions out of a mixture of loyalty and pity.