A woman's corpse lies hidden in a cave in the mountains of East Tennessee. Undiscovered for thirty years, her body has been transformed into a near-perfect mummy. Clueless, the local police enlist the help of Dr Bill Brockton, renowned anthropologist and founder of the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility - the Body Farm - where human corpses are left to the elements, and every manner of decay is fully explored for the sake of science and the cause of justice.
The body has been found in Cooke County, a remote community that's clannish, insular and distrustful of outsiders. When Brockton's autopsy discloses an explosive secret, old wounds are reopened and feuds rekindled. As the powerful and uncooperative sheriff and his inept deputy threaten to derail Brockton's investigations, even Brockton, after years surrounded by death and decay, is baffled by this case unfolding in a unique environment, where nothing is quite what it seems.