Nina has just received a last-minute call from her old boss and mentor in Monterey County, California, where she is enjoying the breath-taking scenery and spending time with her boyfriend, P. I. Paul van Wagoner.
Klaus Pohlmann is in desperate straits and begs Nina to take over a seemingly unwinnable case A luckless two-time felon named Stefan Wyatt has robbed a grave and made off with the long-buried bones of a Russian emigre. When he is caught and arrested, further devastating evidence found in the grave suggests that Stefan is guilty of a far more deadly crime. A young woman has been killed, and Stefan is accused of her murder.
Now, as a result of Californias Third Strike law, Wyatt is looking at twenty-five years to life whether hes convicted of grand theft or murder. Either way, hes in big trouble. With her clients blood DNA found in the dead womans apartment, Nina faces an uphill battle.
Suspecting that her hapless client has been set up, Nina brings in a brilliant forensic pathologist who comes up with a startling theory about the case that could rewrite a crucial page of European history. As the evidence mounts against Ninas client, Paul launches his own investigation into the shadowy past of the two-decades-old skeleton. But long-held secrets nearly get him killed and reveal a more insidious evil at work - and an extraordinary story dating back to tsarist Russia and the Romanov court.
As Wyatt edges closer to the unluckiest verdict of his young life, Nina makes an astounding discovery that just might save her client - or expose a killer who could bury them at all.