As he lies, bound and hidden, on the floor of his abductors' SUV, Carroll Monks is only dimly aware of the bizarre series of high-profile murders sweeping across the nation. What he thinks about instead, as they travel for hours deep into the Northern California wilderness, is that the face of one of his abductors belongsto his own son, Glenn – long estranged and living (the last Monksknew) on the streets of Seattle.
The vehicle finally stops. When Monks is untied and steps out, he sees he's been brought to a remote off-the-grid community where paramilitary training and methamphetamine make for combustible, uneasy bedfellows – and that Glenn has fallen under the spell of a disenfranchised countercultural sociopath known simply as Freeboot, who claims that a revolution "of the people" is already under way. Monks is appalled by Freeboot's violent histrionics and Manson-like affinity for the hidden messages buried within Lennon and McCartney lyrics, yet acknowledges that he hears echoes of his own feelings when Freeboot speaks about the disintegration of workers' rights, the escalating differential between the haves and the have-nots, and the slap-on-the-wrist "justice" doled out in cases of billion-dollar corporate malfeasance. Could this well-armed madman actually have his finger on the pulse of the underclass?
The reason Monks has been abducted, he soon discovers, is Freeboot's own son, a four-year-old boy who is deathly ill – a conundrum for Freeboot, whose distrust of institutional America (hospitals included) borders on the psychotic. Monks, an ER physician, has been brought in to care for the boy, but he can see immediately that the boy's condition is acute and that only immediate hospitalization will save him. When Monks's pleas fall on deaf ears, he fashions a daring escape during a snowstorm, with the young boy slung across his back – and brings the wrath of a madman down on himself and his family, culminating in a diabolically crafted "revolution" – a re-creation of Hitchcock's The Birds, but with human predators, unleashed on the town of Bodega Bay, California.
"Neil McMahon's thrillers have the precision of a surgeon's scalpel." – Michael Connelly
Late one hot summer night, a beautiful young actress named Eden Hale – only hours removed from breast-augmentation surgery, and writhing in pain – stumbles to the telephone and dials 911. Within minutes, an ambulance rushes her to San Francisco's Mercy Hospital. But by the time she arrives, she is dying, fast, of a mysterious, unrecognizable condition.
Dr. Carroll Monks, the ER physician on duty, races to sort through her baffling symptoms in the few minutes he has left to save her. Monks has a sudden insight and, against the advice of his peers, risks a radical treatment, which will prove to be either a brilliant maneuver or a potentially deadly mistake. It fails. Eden Hale, vibrantly healthy and barely twenty-five years old, is dead.
The fallout is immediate and intense. The plastic surgeon who operated on Eden – Dr. D. Welles D'Anton, whose reputation as a surgical guarantor of perfection and agelessness has conferred on him a guru-like status – blames Monks for her death. Criticism from Monks's hospital colleagues quickly follows and the threat of a lawsuit is not far behind. Monks's career is in jeopardy, but his own guilt and uncertainty are what haunt him worst of all.
Convinced there's a hidden cause to Eden's death, Monks starts to delve into her past. Despite roadblocks that spring up in his path, he soon learns that the former prom queen was not the all-American girl she seemed to be: she was caught up in the world of pornography, and was even, possibly, having an illicit affair with D'Anton. Then Monks uncovers a secret that is far more frightening: other young women in D'Anton's care have wound up missing, dead, or horribly disfigured.
In his search for the truth, Monks is drawn into a culture of unimaginable wealth and vanity – only to discover that he is being used as a pawn in a decadent game of glamour and cruelty, one that places him in the crosshairs of a deadly psychopath.