When a plane crashes high in the mountains of North Carolina, Tempe Brennan is one of the first on the scene. As a forensic anthropologist for the state, she serves on the region's disaster response team. The task that confronts her is a sad and sickening one. Putting normal life on hold, she and her colleagues must painstakingly identify the victims. A chance discovery concerns her: a severed foot, well away from the main crash site. A deserted house close by is buried so deep in the woods that locals claim to know nothing of its existence. And her examination of the foot throws up more questions than it answers. Before she can make any progress Tempe's professional standing is threatened. But she fears that, air tragedy aside, another corpse lies somewhere in the woods. Pitting herself against a conspiracy of silence, Tempe vows to bring justice for her mystery victim.