This is a story about arson, the individuals who become caught up in the investigation and the investigators who try to solve the crime. An asonist is targeting churches of all denominations in a small New England town. A community is split apart, hate erupts and the son of a local psychiatrist is accused of the arson. One of his patients seems to be a more likely suspect. The man is a violent psychopath who abuses his girlfriend and when she leaves him blames the psychiatrist.The abuser stalks the psychiatrist and his family, while the police pursue the son, who they believe is the guilty person.
The arsonist turns out to be a very unlikely criminal, a man the community had considered to be deeply religious. The possible reasons for this development and the larger implications are explored in the concluding chapter of the novel.
The psychiatrist continues practice while the family is under surveillance. Experiences with patients provide a running commentary on the story.