Santa Fe police detective Pascal Ruiz becomes disenchanted with his job after solving the high-profile theft of a Stradivarius violin. That is until the captain asks him, off the record, to look into the disappearance of his niece's boyfriend, Bobby Pilot.
Pilot, staying out at Diamond Tail Ranch south of Santa Fe while his girlfriend has a part in a TV western, has been struggling to write an article on the Penitentes, a religious order known for its Holy Week reenactments of Christ's last day on earth, while he also prepares for the upcoming Easter procession to Chimayó. Ruiz finds Pilot alive but unconscious in an abandoned pueblo, clothed in a Jesus costume and tied to a cross.
He suspects the Penitentes and believes the costume is one recently stolen from a Santa Fe Opera storage building. But the pueblo is on the San Felipe Reservation, not in Ruiz's jurisdiction. Tribal police take over the case, and Ruiz attempts to wheedle his way in by befriending the tribal police captain. In his desperation to link the two cases, he crosses the line and puts his career in jeopardy.