A CRIME OF UNIMAGINABLE HORROR: As the world spirals toward war during the Great Depression, a diabolical atrocity would occur in Philadelphia that presages the shocking devastation and inhumanity that is about to spread across the globe.
Over the course of a late summer weekend in 1938, inmates perceived as leaders of a prison food strike are celled in a punishment block known as "Klondike," and cooked alive as payback for their incorrigible behavior. The event will receive front-page headlines throughout the nation, and be described as "the most extreme example of prison abuse in American history."
For Heshel Glass, the county coroner - and the city he represents - the deadly event will prove an unprecedented moral and political challenge. From his first steps inside Holmesburg Prison when he comes upon the shocking spectacle of two alien-like blue corpses, Glass will be thrust in a personal and ethical crucible no one could have anticipated.
Determining the cause of death for eight bizarrely discolored cadavers only becomes more difficult when police investigators inform the press that inmates fought among themselves and killed each other. Glass is astounded by the claim, especially after visiting the punishment cellblock where he learns the unit's windows and air vents had been shuttered, the water turned off, and the building's huge bank of radiators turned on full throttle causing temperatures inside the tiny structure to reach 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Complicating matters is a political power structure that demands total subservience. Controlled by a corrupt and conniving mayor determined to bury the truth with the victims, Coroner Glass is confronted with the dilemma of whether to fall in line with other city officials or carry out his oath of office? Choosing the latter, he is warned, will end his political career and possibly his life.