When four teenagers go missing in the small northern town of Algonquin Bay,the extensive police investigation comes up empty. Everyone is ready to give up except Detective John Cardinal, an all-too-human loner whose persistence only serves to get him removed from homicide. Haunted by a criminal secret in his own past and hounded by a special investigation into corruption on the force, Cardinal is on the brink of losing his career--and his family.
Then the mutilated body of thirteen-year-old Katie Pine is pulled out of an abandoned mineshaft. And only Cardinal is willing to consider the horrible truth: that this quiet town is home to the most vicious of serial killers. The case as it unfolds proves eerily reminiscent of the Moors murders in Britain, as an unassuming young man and his belligerently loyal girlfriend scout young victims for their macabre games.
With the media, the provincial police and his own department questioning his every move, Cardinal follows increasingly tenuous threads towards the unthinkable. Time isn't only running out for him, but for another young victim, tied up in a basement wondering when and how his captors will kill him.