Nick is caught in a dead end job in a dead end town. About the only thing going well for him is Lissa, his new girlfriend. A chance to make some easy cash, and a way out of town, only leads to more trouble. Also caught in the web of sex, thefts, gangsters, kidnappings and murder is Nick's college friend, Bryce.
After a sexual harassment incident, Dennis Burke, a Nathaniel Hawthorne scholar, goes to work at a California college. He begins correspondence with an imprisoned murderer, Lydia Davis. Burke is finding old habits hard to break, developing relationships with obsessive coeds. Meanwhile, Lydia escapes from prison. Dennis and his colleague Thurston, a computer scientist and hacker, find themselves caught in a web of intrigue.