This story begins in the mountains of North Carolina, where eleven year old Emily Steiner lived. She had left a youth meeting at her church one afternoon and was on her way home. She never arrived. A week later, her nude, lifeless body was found.
Kay Scarpetta, medical examiner and noted forensic pathologist, is called in by the North Carolina authorities, After an initial review, she believes that the murder may have been commited by serial killer, Temple Gault. Long known to the FBI, He has managed to elude capture and remains at large. More careful review of the forensic evidence, however, leaves her with unanswered question that initially puzzle her. As she endeavors to untangle these strange and tantalizing clues, she realizes that they begin to point away from Gault and in a direction more horrifying than anyone ever imagined.
Meanwhile, Dr. Scarpetta must contend with other issues closer to home. Her troubled niece, Lucy, an intern at the FBI facility at Quantico, becomes enmeshed in a legal controversy that threatens to derail her future employment hopes. Scarpetta's long time associate and homicide detective, Pete Marino, may have bitten off more than he could chew and has personally gotten involved with Emily Steiner's mother. Meanwhile, Dr. Scarpetta, herself, is undergoing a certain amount of personal angst over the sexual tension that is building between her and married FBI agent, Benton Wesley. All these personal concerns overlay her investigation for Emily Steiner's killer.
The forensic questions that arise from Emily's murder lead Dr. Scarpetta to "The Body Farm", a secret research facility in Tennessee, where some of the answers to her questions may be found. It is the forensic clues and their analysis by Dr. Scarpetta that provide the most interesting aspects of the book. All in all, It is another excellent addition to the Kay Scarpetta series and well worth reading.