Three young girls who had been abducted are found in the attic of a home in Aurelius, NY. They are dead, bound by rope to chairs side by side, and missing their left hands. The story narration turns back in time to when two unsettling events occur just a short period prior to the grisly discovery. First is the gruesome murder of Janice McNeal, ex-wife to Patrick and mother of Aaron. She is not very subtle about her sexual liaisons and is reputed to have had over two hundred lovers. Her corpse too, has lost its left hand. The second altering event for the town is the hiring of history professor Houari Chihani a radical Marxist for Aurelius College. He initiates a socio-political reading group Inquiries Into the Right (IIR) that eventually attracts ten youthful misfit adherents to his political and social philosophies.
The ten individuals, led by Aaron McNeal, begin thumbing their noses at the town's power structure and conservative lifestyle quickly drawing the ire of the locals. As bad things begin to happen the group members are singled out for suspicion and even retribution. The attitudes and actions turn ugly on both sides with assaults, property damage, and accusations. Beneath the idyllic exterior Aurelius is rife with anger, bitterness, infidelity, pettiness, jealousy, and sickness. Aaron's half sister Paula marries Franklin the editor of the town's paper as his first wife recently passed away from cancer leaving him with their daughter Sadie. Aaron conducts his own investigation into the murder of his mother, believing it to be related to the disappearance of the girls. As dozens of characters are introduced their relationships to one another are expounded upon. Eventually the town comes apart at the seams losing its sense of civic-cohesiveness as neighbor fears neighbor.
This report prepared by David Fletcher