Samuel 'Sailor' Doyle has transferred from Vice to Homicide in the Virginia State Police. He has a mistress, an alcohol problem, a prescription drug dependency, and a burgeoning self-loathing that alienates his wife and family.
On Friday 3 July, the rookie investigator is assigned to a double homicide on a rural farm some 15 miles outside Richmond. One of the victims has been interred in a makeshift tomb, while the other is stuck half-in, half-out of a hope chest overflowing with cat litter. And the farm is covered with dead bodies: dozens of cats, sheep, goats, cows, and one dead horse. The mentally handicapped daughter of the victims, Carl and Claire Bruckner, is missing.
Doyle soon discovers that Bruckner was a Marine captain who lost his leg in Vietnam thanks to the incompetence of his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lake - now retired General Robert Lake, and Republican Party presidential hopeful, who will be speaking in Richmond on July fourth - the following evening. What Doyle fails to realise as he follows the various clues is that wherever he goes, he is spreading disease - and not just any disease, but Yersinia pestis. The plague.
Is the dead Marine planning revenge, even from beyond the grave?