In Abenaki County, Maine, lumberman Jonah Mackenzie is racing to complete clear-cutting fifty thousand acres of government-owned land before the parcel becomes a permanent wilderness reserve. Gulf War veteran Adam Gabriel is determined to stop Mackenzie, even if it means stepping far outside the law, even if it means risking his life.

While the ostensible battlefield between Mackenzie and Gabriel is the forest, the conflict also runs deeply within each of the men—and in the other characters in Watkins’ tale: Alicia Mackenzie, who has earned the community’s affection and respect while her husband Jonah has garnered its fear and distrust; Madeline Cody, the young environmentalist editor/owner of the local newspaper; policeman Marcus Dodge, quietly in love with Madeline and disgusted with the legal system that allies him with Mackenzie; Victor Coltrane, Mackenzie’s foreman torn between his job and his conscience; and Mary Frobisher (crazy Mary-the-Clock), the town eccentric whose son may be the product of a long-ago affair with Mackenzie.

When Jonah Mackenzie is finally driven to the brink of suspending his logging operations by Adam Gabriel’s sabotage, the old man calls in a favor from a friend with shadowy connections: Send someone to put an end to the sabotage and the saboteur. No questions asked; no quarter given. This decision, which Jonah soon comes to regret, precipitates a final coming to terms for each of the characters—a time when each must choose which beliefs and which people are worth dying for, and a time when some must choose between people and beliefs.