Three men stage a predawn raid on one of the Ute tribe's gambling casinos. They kill one policeman, wound another and disappear in the maze of canyons on the Arizona State border. The FBI take over the investigation from the local police, and agents swarm in with helicopters, high tech equipment and modern techniques. They become convinced that the wounded deputy sheriff is the key suspect.
This development brings crimebusters Chee and Leaphorn on to the scene and they - finding a remarkable parallel between this crime and the exploits of a legendary Ute bandit hero - are convinced that they have discovered a fatal flaw in the FBI theory.