In Buddhist lore, hungry ghosts have huge bellies and needle-thin necks and--because they cannot swallow the food they crave--their hunger is insatiable. The Barbary Coast, San Francisco's infamous red-light district in the days when sailors could sit down for a drink and wake up on a ship bound around the Horn, has plenty of hungry ghosts. But it is the living ghosts who threaten stunt double Darcy Lott when she returns to San Francisco to serve as assistant to her Zen teacher, Leo Garson, in his new zendo.
Darcy brings her own ghosts along as well. She is haunted by the disappearance of her beloved brother Mike and her estrangement from her family. From a turret atop a San Francisco Victorian, as she prepares for a thirty-five-foot dive to the sidewalk, she spots Mike on the roof of the zendo. By the time she reaches the roof, he is gone. When someone else she cares about disappears the next day, she fears the past is about to repeat itself. But Lott is unable to convince anyone of the danger, even her oldest brother, a police detective. Until a brutal murder shocks them all.