A woman's charred body has been found inside a burned car perched atop a hill in Knoxville. Is it accidental death, or murder followed by arson? Forensic anthropologist Bill Brockton's quest for answers prompts an experiment straight from Dante's Inferno: In the dark of night, he puts bodies to the torch, researching how fire consumes flesh and bone.
In the meantime, Brockton is sent a mysterious package: a set of cremated remains that looks entirely unreal. With the help of a local crematorium, he investigates and discovers a truth too horrifying to believe: A facility in another state has not been disposing of bodies properly, instead scattering them all around the grounds.
Little does Brockton know that his research is about to collide with reality with the force of a lit match meeting spilled gasoline. En route to trial, his nemesis, medical examiner Garland Hamilton, has escaped from custody. What follows is a deadly game of cat and mouse, played for the ultimate stakes: Brockton's own life. With help from his loyal graduate assistant, Miranda, and ace criminalist Art Bohanan, Brockton eventually tracks Hamilton, but when the police arrive, they find only a smoldering ruin. Sifting through the ashes, Brockton finds the incinerated remains of Hamilton...or does he? The answer, along with Brockton's ultimate test, comes in a searing moment of truth.