George Gates is a former travel writer. He used to specialize in writing about places where people disappeared, sometimes individuals, sometimes whole societies. Now, since the murder of his eight-year-old son, Gates has written gentler stories for the town paper about flower festivals and local celebrities. Enter Arlo MacBride, a retired missing-persons detective who, knowing Gates' past, mentions the case of Katherine Carr, a woman who vanished twenty years before, leaving nothing behind but a few poems and a strange little story. It is this story that spurs Gates to inquire into its missing author's brief life and dire fate, an exploration that leads him to discoveries about life and death, mystery and resolution.