Violence is escalating, and spilling on to the streets of Montreal.
A nine-year-old girl is killed in crossfire on her way to ballet class. The body of a teenager killed in North Carolina is found hundreds of miles away.
Forensic anthropologist Dr Temperance Brennan has to pick up the pieces: she knows she shouldn't let emotion get in the way, but when nine-year-old Emily's body is wheeled into the morgue she cannot help but react.
An exhumation uncovers the bones of another innocent in a clandestine grave close to a biker gang headquarters. With her boss in hospital and sparring partner Detective Andrew Ryan mysteriously unavailable, Tempe alone begins a perilous investigation into the lawless underworld of organised crime...
'Death by self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head' is the on-scene assessment, but the victim's relatives are adamant in their rejection of suicide as an explanation.
Discovered in a closet, a full week after death, the body is barely recognisable. Extreme heat has accelerated decomposition, and Dr Temperance Brennan's forensic expertise is required.
Advanced putrefaction has made it virtually impossible to determine the trajectory of the bullet. But just as Tempe is attempting to make sense of the fracture patterning, an unknown man slips her a photograph of a skeleton, telling her it holds the answer to the victim's death...
Detective Andrew Ryan is also on the case and, as his relationship with Tempe heats up, together they follow the trail of clues all the way to Israel. In the Holy Land, with the help of Jacob Drum, a biblical archaeologist and old friend, Tempe becomes involved in an international mystery as old as Jesus, a mystery that could rewrite 2000 years of religious history.
Could one of the tombs really be Christ's last resting place? And are the bones in the ancient ossuary the last remnants of James, the brother of Jesus, as its inscription claims? But the further Tempe probes into the identity of the ancient skeleton, the more she seems to be putting herself in danger...
Dr Temperance Brennan and her students are working on a site of prehistoric graves on an island near Charleston, South Carolina, when a decomposing body is uncovered in a shallow grave off a lonely beach.
The bone is fresh and the remains are still topped by wisps of hair - it's a recent burial, and a case Tempe must take.
Tempe determines that the deceased is a middle-aged white male - but who was he? Why was he buried in a clandestine grave? And what does an unusual vertical fracture of one of the vertebrae signify?
While Tempe is trying to piece together the evidence, her personal life is thrown into turmoil. But before long, another body is discovered - and Tempe finds herself drawn deeper into a shocking investigation which will challenge her entire view of humanity.
'You have an enemy, Dr Brennan. It is in your interest to learn who placed that call.' A routine case turns sinister when Dr Temperance Brennan is accused of mishandling the autopsy of a missing heiress. Someone has made an incriminating accusation that she missed or concealed crucial evidence. Before Tempe can get to the one man with information, he turns up dead.
The heiress isn't the only elderly female to have appeared on Tempe's gurney recently. Back in Montreal, three more women have died, their bodies brutally discarded. Tempe is convinced there's a link between their deaths and that of the heiress. But what - or who - connects them?
Tempe struggles with the clues, but nothing adds up. Has she made grave errors or is some unknown foe sabotaging her? It soon becomes frighteningly clear. It's not simply Tempe's career at risk. Her life is at stake too.
Dr Temperance Brennan spends her life working amongst the decomposed, the mutilated and the skeletal. So the two-days-dead body she is called to examine holds little to surprise her. Until she discovers that the man is John Lowery, an ex-soldier who was apparently killed in Vietnam in 1968. So who is buried in Lowery's grave?
The case takes Tempe to the heart of the American military, where she must examine the remains of anyone who may have had a connection to the drowned man. It's a harrowing task, but it pays off when she finds Lowery's dog tags amongst the bones of a long-dead soldier.
As Tempe unravels the tangled threads of the soldiers' lives and deaths, she realises there are some who would rather the past stayed dead and buried. And when she proves difficult to frighten, they turn their attention to the one person she would give her life to protect...
Under the microscope, the outer bone surface is a moonscape of craters...
'Preliminary diagnosis?' 'Deformity of the bone. Maybe. Cortical destruction on a metacarpal. Maybe. Localised infection? Systemic disease process? Postmortem destruction, either purposeful or natural? A combination of the above? I don't have a diagnosis...' The skeleton is that of a young girl, no more than fourteen years old - and forensic anthropologist Dr Temperance Brennan is struggling to keep her emotions in check.
Coroner Yves Bradette is being evasive, insisting the bones are ancient and of no interest. But it doesn't quite add up, and a frustrated Tempe is convinced that Bradette is hiding something...
It's not Tempe's case; she's overwhelmed with more urgent work in the lab... But the nagging in her subconscious won't let up. A memory triggered, deep in her hindbrain - the disappearance of a childhood friend; no warning, no explanation...
Working on instinct, Tempe takes matters into her own hands. But she couldn't have predicted where this case would lead, or the horrors it would eventually uncover...Can Tempe maintain a professional distance as the past catches up with her in this, her most deeply personal case yet?