Agent Pendergast investigates a serial killer in a small town. Medicine Creek, Kansas, has been dying for the last century: the primary occupation is still farming; Main Street is a two-block stretch of bleak and dusty businesses; the nearest mall is 200 miles away. Then, a series of grisly murders with the bodies displayed in peculiar tableaus shocks the tiny town. Believing they'd know if a stranger had passed through, the locals lock their doors and look more carefully at their neighbors. Pendergast arrives with his refined New Orleans accent, big city ways, and meals shipped in from Zabar's and Balducci's. Taking on a local teenage misfit as his research assistant, Pendergast's investigation takes him into the heart of this town-from its bowling alley to its corn fields to its touristy spelunking caves. From uncovering the geological mysteries of the local caves, to the remnants of a Prohibition-era moonshine operation, to the secret of one of western Kansas' greatest enigmas: the Medicine Creek Massacre of 1865, Pendergast's journey leads him to encounter a decayed and twisted evil in the soul of a four-generation Kansas family.