When Lucy Cartaret dies, her journalist son Dan returns to her hometown, Fort Jude, Florida, in search of his real father and claiming to be investigating the mysterious deaths of three elderly women. Spontaneous human combustion, experts say. But why? Surely it''s more than coincidence - and what links these deaths to Dan''s mother? It soon becomes clear that something terrible happened during his mother''s last year in town, thirty years before. But the social elite of Fort Jude remain tight-lipped. The families who run the town will do anything to protect their own - anything.