Forensic detective and best-selling crime author Alex Cross is cool and professional about his work, passionate and protective about his family. A widower with a teenage son and a daughter, the bonds of blood are all important to him. So when his niece Naomi turns up missing from her college campus in North Carolina, Cross knows he must apply his formidable investigative skills to search for her. But unlike his previous cases, this one is personal and there's no room for error. Arriving in Durham, where the antebellum ruins of the Old South meets the modern buildings of the New South's Research Triangle, Cross learns a special Task Force Officer is already operating and that Naomi isn't the only victim. Seven other girls are missing and two bodies have been found, with a note left at the second murder scene signed "Cassanova." Cross receives only gruging cooperation from the local detectives who are wary of big city specialists and view Cross' investigation as unwelcome infringement.