The hunting season is about to start in the Catskills near the close-knit community of Centerville, but one hunter isnít waiting. He leaves his victim naked, shot twice execution-style through the head and the heart. Local law enforcement is called to the scene in the person of Sheriff Willie Brand after two brothers who own the local auto body shop, Aaron and Walker Kuhn, discover the remains of a local man. The hunter has been missing for two days when his wife makes the call that sets the search party in motion.
But this corpse gives only a hint of what is to come in this remote wilderness. Soon the state law enforcement agencies are involved, doing their bureaucratic best to avoid a rising panic in the area as more bodies are found executed in the same fashion. Out of their depth, the local authorities call in a forensic psychologist in an attempt to inform personnel about the nature of the crimes they are processing.
Andrew and Walker Kuhn are asked to keep what they have seen to themselves in hopes of avoiding unnecessary notice from the press, although the media is already hovering, having heard the police radio bulletins. One reporter, Diana Brooks from The Middletown Post, is hoping to do a more in-depth series on the hunting culture from a more personal perspective. Diana has the good fortune to run into Aaron Kuhn, who soon becomes a confidant and romantic interest.
Somewhat predictably, Diana and Aaron begin a dalliance and Diana is privy to the behind-the-scenes world of the hunter, a sport with its own particular rules and obligations. With Aaronís assistance, Diana plans an expedition with a local family the following day, but after two more murders, it isnít prudent to venture into the forest. Of course, there are certain individuals who will not be denied the opportunity: when the season calls, some will take their chances for a prize trophy.
In the chapters written from the killerís perspective, the reader learns something about why the murders are occurring, but the real motive isnít disclosed until the surprising ending. The killer has entered a terrible place that subsumes his subconscious and robs him of the human sensibilities that have so far enabled him to function in society, turning the tables on his fellow hunters, the stalked becoming the stalker.
Neidermanís background for atrocity is a pristine landscape, introducing an element of psychopathology that ignores the balance of the natural world, replaced by the chaotic inventions of a sick mind. The characters are shocked by the sudden violence in their small community; they had thought themselves invulnerable to such insane acts. At least Diana Brooks finds comfort in the good-natured Aaron Kuhn and his family, a small respite from the all too real terrors that have been visited upon this society of hunters. Meanwhile, the authorities struggle to unravel a threat that comes too close to home and reminds them all that the law of the jungle makes demands of every man.