James Lee Burke's new novel begins in West Texas in 1934, and the story begins with a fateful encounter between the narrator, Weldon Avery Holland, and the notorious Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker - a meeting which ends with the sixteen-year-old Holland putting a bullet through the windscreen of Clyde's stolen automobile. Weldon's education in the evils that men - and women - are capable of continues as we move to the Ardennes Forest and the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, where Second Lieutenant Weldon Holland saves his sergeant, Hershel Pine, from death by suffocation when he is buried alive in his foxhole under the treads of a Waffen SS Tiger tank. Weldon and Hershel survive the executions of the wounded by the SS and escape on a freight train deep into Nazi Germany. There, they stumble into an extermination camp deserted by the SS, and discover among the stacked bodies a young woman named Rosita Lowenstein - the second woman to change Weldon's life. Weldon goes all the way to the Elbe River in the war's brutal climax, but afterwards he is determined to find Rosita - eventually tracking her down in Paris, where they get married.
But Hershel has also found gold in the dross of conflict, claiming to have discovered the secret to the Tiger tank's indestructibility, its unique welding process - and on their return to the States, it looks as if the two friends have not merely survived; they're going to be rich. But as the two form a pipeline corporation and enter the oil business, they are about to encounter - amidst the super-rich of Huston - levels of greed and cruelty they thought they had left far behind in the blood and horror of war.