New York surgeon Will McKeen is still recovering from a heart attack when he enters California's Santa Cruz Mountains to begin his early retirement. There he receives a shock. Demented killers are at work among the misty, fog-strewn redwood trees he has dreamed about for years. Less than a mile from his cabin, a 12-year-old boy tramping in a dry creek bed comes across a corpse in a peculiar location. Will argues with the local Sheriff's Deputy over this strange location. How did the body get there?
Nearby, a metalsmithing student creates an elaborate funerary urn, which his landlady names "La Vida Segunda" for its purpose of storing human ashes for the afterlife. As Will sits beside the student, helping him to hand-finish the urn, he becomes drawn into a spell that hangs like woodsmoke over the forest, involving the urn, the local murder, and more-a wildflower painter who runs away at night sending a curse into the rainy darkness.
Who is the murderer? No one knows but the reader.