Forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta has just inherited one of the most notorious cases of her career. Two years ago, a former beauty queen's body washed up on the shore of Wallops Island, Virginia. She was last seen on a boat with her fiancé, who has since been held in jail while awaiting trial. Scarpetta must act as the expert witness for the case - an investigation previously botched by another forensic pathologist. After a gruelling cross-examination by the prosecutor, Scarpetta leaves the court only to discover that the sister of the judge on her case has been found dead. She ultimately finds herself facing a powerful, invisible enemy - who's planning the unthinkable.