Kylie Preston is out for a night of fun with The Liberated Wives Club, a group of close friends who have not only survived divorce but also thrived in its wake. Kylie encounters an alluring stranger who charms her into going home with him. The next day, Kylie Preston’s body is discovered in a stolen car, dissected and preserved in ice chests and wrapped in brown butcher’s paper secured with cellophane tape and twine. When Portland Homicide finds themselves at a dead end, Carl Wheaton, a dear friend and colleague of the deceased Vice-President of Acquisitions for Lunsford Insurance, implores C. J. Cavanaugh to investigate on behalf of his employer. Despite his misgivings about becoming involved in another murder case, C. J. cannot say no to his friend.
As C. J. delves into the background of the murder victim in search of motives, he is disturbed by what he uncovers. Kylie Preston chaired a culture of unethical insurance practices that constructed many of the rungs on her ladder to success. Were Carl Wheaton and Lunsford Insurance aware of Kylie’s unethical practice of short-changing insurance claimants? If so, were they complicit in any way, or did they simply chose to look the other way? The answers could shatter the high regard C. J. held for their number one client and irreparably damage their hospitable relationship.
During the course of Cavanaugh’s murder investigation, more victims turn up mutilated in precisely the same manner as Kylie Preston. The press dubs the deranged killer “The Butcher.” C. J. places his ethical and personal concerns regarding Carl Wheaton and Lunsford Insurance on the back burner in order to maintain his focus on apprehending a serial murderer. Each grisly discovery intensifies the race to capture The Butcher before he strikes again.