At 11.05 one December evening in Richmond, Virginia, convicted murderer Ronnie Joe Waddell is pronounced dead in the electric chair. At the morgue Dr Kay Scarpetta waits for Waddell's body. Preparing to perform a post-mortem before the subject is dead is a strange feeling, but Scarpetta has been here before. And Waddell's death is not the only newsworthy event on this freezing night; the grotesquely wounded body of a young boy is found propped against a rubbish skip. To Scarpetta the two cases seem unrelated, until she recalls that the body of Waddell's victim had been arranged in a strikingly similar position.