Randall Stargill is dying. As his four sons gather to build his coffin, a local wise woman arrives with a small box that must be buried with the old man. In it are the fragile bones of a child and the memories of an ancient crime. Already faced with decisions about what to do with their father's farm, his sons are now drawn into a hazardous conflict between families who would die for their land and those who do not value the rich tradition of the region. As the Stargills attempt to identify the child, McCrumb weaves mystical Indian legends and Daniel Boone's sweeping visions of his beloved mountains into the investigation.