"The Whites" follows a New York City detective named Billy Graves, who investigates a case that has ties to his past. The book brings multiple plot lines together, including unsolved cases and a stalker threatening Graves' family. Richard Price, using the pen name Harry Brandt, wrote "The Whites." The title is a reference to how unsolved cases for detectives are like white whales that got away, like in "Moby Dick."
In the 1990s, Graves was a member of the Wild Geese, an aggressive law enforcement group attempting to crack down on crime in the South Bronx area. During an altercation with a drug addict, he accidentally shot a 10-year-old boy, which ruined his reputation and career. "The Whites" takes place when Graves is in his early forties, working in Manhattan Night Watch, which investigates night time felonies.
When Graves and his team investigate a knife murder at a train station, he recognizes the murder victim as Jeffrey Bannion, a man who got away with murder when Graves was part of the Wild Geese. Graves gets back in touch with all the surviving members of the Wild Geese during his investigation.
A related side plot follows Milton Ramos, another detective. He doesn't know Graves at the beginning of the book, but their work eventually draws them together.