Claire Malloy runs a bookstore in the normally quiet college town of Farberville, Arkansas - an enterprise which provides the verging-on-meagre living for her and her deeply sarcastic teenage daughter Caron. So when emergency work forces Claire and Caron to abandon their apartment for a few weeks, they are in no financial position to put themselves up in style and Claire is thrilled to accept a customer's offer to let them stay at her well-stocked, well-equipped palatial home while she is traveling.
Of course, nothing is ever that easy. No sooner do Claire and Caron ensconce themselves than disquieting events start to occur - dubious people show up looking for the 'traveling' owner of the house; the owner herself turns out not to be who she claimed and is now seemingly on the run; and a dead body keeps turning up - and subsequently disappearing - around the grounds of the house. Determined, for once, to stay out of the mysterious doings, Claire's hand is finally forced when the disappearing body turns out to be only the first corpse to turn up . . .