When criminalist Lincoln Rhyme travels to a world-famous spinal cord injuries centre in North Carolina for some experimental surgery, he hopes that the operation will give him slightly more movement. He knows that it may kill him.
But before he has a chance to undergo it, the local police department draft in Rhyme and his assistant Amelia, using their forensic skills to help find two women kidnapped by a psychotic young man known locally as the Insect Boy. After a cat and mouse game through the abandoned swamps of North Carolina, Lincoln and Amelia succeed, and the Insect Boy is safely in jail.
Until Amelia, convinced of his innocence, breaks him out. And Lincoln has to find them both, while Amelia uses all the skills her mentor and lover has taught her to evade him. Her actions are to have more disastrous consequences than either of them anticipate . . .