In her laboratory Professor Temperance Brennan has a few unidentified leg bones that need to be investigated. When another suspicious find is made at a man-made lake north of Charlotte, the site of the discovery of the bones, she is immediately called out. This proves to be a more recent complete corpse and is identified as a grad student already reported missing, Edith Blankenship. Edith has been volunteering at the Carolina Raptor Centre, run by raptor enthusiast, Doris Kramer. There she met Herman Blount, an extreme eco warrior, also interested in the life of owls, which is Edith's graduation thesis.
Edith has been murdered and her body dumped. In her usual expert fashion, Kathy Reichs describes the forensic anthropology that Tempe Brennan employs to discover the true murderer. Along with this knowledge comes evidence of extreme animal cruelty. Discovery of this abuse is what led to Edith's death.