Dr Temperance Brennan and her students are working on a site of prehistoric graves on an island near Charleston, South Carolina, when a decomposing body is uncovered in a shallow grave off a lonely beach.
The bone is fresh and the remains are still topped by wisps of hair - it's a recent burial, and a case Tempe must take.
Tempe determines that the deceased is a middle-aged white male - but who was he? Why was he buried in a clandestine grave? And what does an unusual vertical fracture of one of the vertebrae signify?
Before long, another body is discovered - and Tempe finds herself drawn deeper into a shocking investigation which will challenge her entire view of humanity.