In the 20's, in Netherlands, Jacob Willem Katadreuffe has just concluded the law school and has an argument with the High Court Enforcement Officer Dreverhaven at his office. Katadreuffe leaves the place covered in blood. On the next morning, he is arrested by the police for the murder of Dreverhaven. He claims that he is innocent and discloses the story of his life to the Chief of Police. His mother Joba was the maid at Dreverhaven. One night, she is raped by him and a couple of weeks later she learns that she is pregnant. Dreverhaven proposes to marry her but Joba quits her job and leaves his house. Along the years, Katadreuffe is bullied at school and called bastard by his mates and his mother never talks to him. One day, he is involved by other kids in a theft of bread and arrested by the police. When he calls his biological father to help him, Dreverhaven tells the police that he does not know who Katadreuffe is. The boy is intelligent and learns English reading a superseded and incomplete edition of encyclopedia that was left behind by the previous tenants of his apartment. Katadreuffe is also ambitious and asks for a job in a law office, where he becomes the protégé of his mentor De Gankelaar. Soon he falls in unrequited love with the secretary Lorna Te George Victor. Along the years, Dreverhaven uses his power to harm him. When he concluded his course, he decides to pay a visit to Dreverhaven to tell him that he has wined their dispute. May Katadreuffe have killed Dreverhaven?