Shortly after Darryl was discharged from a mental healthcare center, he kills himself, leaving behind a wife, wealth, and a life as an anthropologist. Darryl was a passionate man. So very few of us achieve our dreams as he did. What could so easily and so quickly shatter a man's soul?
Joel Curwen and Darryl Tilden have been inseparable since their days as students in the Phoenix University, and Joel takes it upon himself to investigate his friend's untimely death. Darryl's last anthropological project involved the study of Tibetan Nomads in one of the remotest and most inhospitable regions of the Tibetan Plateau. At the mouth of the Yangtze River in Shanghai, Joel Curwen boards a ship and travels across China picking up the trail of his dead friend. As he sails upstream, he learns that the many cities and villages that flank the river whisper of angry river spirits attacking boats. Survivors of such attacks tell stories that bear a shocking resemblance to the insane ravings of Darryl in the final moments preceding his suicide. It was as if madness became a widespread sickness and it was infecting people all along the Yangtze River.
But Joel Curwens resolve was not truly tested until he had come in contact with the Tibetan nomads Darryl had spent months living with. The nomads took him where they had taken his friend in a part of the world where vegetation can scarcely sustain life and there he learned that perhaps some secrets are better left in the dark.