Reverend Hale Poser arrives in Pilotville, Louisiana, in 1927. Raised in an orphanage, he discovers a clue to his biological parents that brings him here. This small isolated town on the Mississippi Delta appears to be a haven of racial equality under the generous patriarchy of Papa Vincent DeGroot. Then something terrible happens. Hanna Lamont, a new baby girl, disappears from the Negro infirmary, where Hale has been working as a janitor. Her parents, James and Rosa, are deranged with grief. A posse is quickly formed and scours the surrounding swamps and river, but it finds nothing. Unable to stop searching, James, along with Hale, continues the apparently fruitless search. At one point, Hale becomes lost in the swamp. He is delirious and ill, and feels he is certainly going to die. Then his boat bumps into what appears to be land. Hale stumbles up the side of a small knoll and falls down the other into a nightmare from history that only a flood of biblical proportions resolves.
Dickson has fashioned a fascinating mystery, exploring fundamental yet complex issues such as family, faith, and race. It is a novel that magically reveals a dark, disturbing aspect of southern history.