The serial killings perpetrated by sociopath Calvin Bryant ranked high on the FBI’s Most Grisly list until Special Agent Russell Montgomery put an end to them. Or so he believed. And he had every right to, since the gunshot wound he inflicted on Bryant seemed so emphatically lethal that he never wondered whether the self-styled Prince of Darkness might not have been dispatched to the Angels of Light. Alas, Bryant’s been given a second lease on death by Dr. Ansel Heywood, founder of the Madison (Virginia) Facial and Cranial Surgery Center, an institution connected in murky ways to the Federal Witness Protection Program. Firmly in the Dr. Frankenstein tradition, Dr. Heywood, at least slightly mad, is obsessive about pushing plastic surgery’s envelope. Having somehow survived Montgomery’s bullet, Bryant is brought to him, for reasons never quite clear, to be ministered to as only the master nip-and-tucker can. He emerges from surgery unrecognizable to the FBI and the law enforcement community at large, and remains that way when his re-creator dies in a convenient plane crash, taking a mess of secrets with him—among them, of course, what the restored Bryant now looks like. Granted impunity, the killer resumes killing; the law enforcers resume their efforts to end his latest spree; while back at the Madison F&C Surgery Center, others left re-created by the late Dr. Heywood flit about mere shadows of the folks they once were.
And they’re not the only shadows pasted onto SF veteran Vance’s improbable plot. A definite also-ran in the police procedural/serial-killer sweepstakes.