Quickie spoiler: Pendergast returns to New York with Tristram after dismantling Der Bund. Alban remains at large. Corrie proves her father’s innocence. After proving that she really is over one hundred years old and that her son is still alive, Constance goes to live with Pendergast.
After twelve years, FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast’s assumed dead wife, Helen, resurfaces. Helen was kidnapped after she threatened to expose Der Bund, a Brazil-based Nazi syndicate that’s genetically engineered twins for decades. Helen (the “good” twin; explained later) and her sister, Emma (the “bad” twin; also explained later), were part of these experiments. But when Der Bund tried to silence Helen for good, she pulled a switcheroo and had Emma die in her place. However, Helen’s reunion with Pendergast is short lived: after Der Bund uncovers the scheme, they abduct her once again. Pendergast pursues Helen all the way from New York to Mexico, but she is shot to death before his eyes.
Fifteen years ago, unbeknownst to Pendergast, a pregnant Helen was forced to go to Brazil to secretly give birth to and relinquish their twin boys to Der Bund. Alban was groomed to be strong and intelligent, while Tristram was raised to be weak and passive. With Tristram as an accessory, Alban arrives in New York to commit a series of murders, leaving cryptic messages intended for Pendergast at each scene. Tristram soon escapes to find Pendergast and tell him about Alban’s evil deeds. When Alban kills again, Pendergast shows up at the scene to confront and apprehend him, but Alban is too swift: he flees, kidnaps Tristram, and heads back to Brazil. Pendergast follows them to Nova Godói, Der Bund’s homebase. Soon, he is captured by their leader (and Helen’s killer), Wulf Konrad Fischer.
From Fischer, Pendergast learns that Der Bund’s experiments involve swapping the best genetic material from one embryo with the weaker genetic material from the other; its purpose is to form a superior race (the kind Hitler attempted but failed to create) with the “good” twin, and use the “bad” twin as an organ bank. However, since Helen was too late in her pregnancy for their standard experiment, they used a new one. It proved to create an even better specimen in Alban, so he was sent to New York to test his skills against his father’s. Eventually, Pendergast escapes captivity and teams up with the Brazilian military police to fight the town’s German soldiers, a battle that dismantles Der Bund, yields many casualties – including Fischer – and ends in a standoff between Alban and Pendergast. Alban attempts to kill Pendergast, but when he runs out of ammunition, he takes off before Pendergast can shoot him. With Alban still at large, Pendergast heads back home to start a new life with Tristram.
Subplot 1: Corrie Swanson
Corrie Swanson is a Law Enforcement major who was Pendergast’s assistant until Helen’s death. Unfortunately, Der Bund is after her for helping Pendergast, so she goes to stay with her estranged father, Jack, who is hiding out at a cabin in New Jersey after being accused of bank robbery. He claims that the employees at the car dealership where he worked framed him because he threatened to expose their under-the-table financing scam.
Corrie goes undercover, posing as an employee at the dealership. Eventually the co-workers mention the scam; all of them are in on it except for Charlie Foote, who refuses to participate. When Corrie breaks into the dealership overnight to find evidence of the frame-up, she is intercepted by Foote, who claims to have what she needs to clear Jack’s name, and offers to take her straight to the police.
Foote is the one who framed Jack, because, unbeknownst even to his coworkers, he was running an even bigger financing scam. He feared that if Jack were to go to the Feds with the financing scam the others were running, his would also be exposed. When his offer of fifty thousand dollars in return for their silence is refused, Foote resorts to violence, but is swiftly taken down by the Swansons.
Subplot 2: Constance Greene & Dr. John Felder
Constance Greene has been living in a mental institution since allegedly killing her newborn son. She wants to prove her sanity by validating her claim of being born in the 1870’s. The only evidence she has is a lock of her hair, which is attached to an artist’s 1879 sketch of her. The sketch still exists, but is kept in the artist’s portfolio at his estate, where his grandniece currently resides. So Constance’s doctor, John Felder, poses as a lodger, sneaks into the library where the portfolio is located, obtains the hair sample, and returns to Constance with the DNA results.
Constance tells Felder that she was an orphan being raised by her older sister, Mary, until Mary died due to the experiments of Dr. Leng, which involved a life-prolonging serum made from human tissue. Out of guilt, Dr. Leng became Constance’s guardian, but still used the serum on her – and himself. Though he stopped once the formula, which allowed him to use synthetic material, was perfected, Constance continued with the treatment until Dr. Leng was killed during a home invasion. Constance hid out in the mansion until it was passed down to Leng’s great-grandnephew, Aloysius Pendergast, who took over as her guardian before she was institutionalized.
Constance’s son isn’t dead. She’d given birth to him in a Tibetan monastery, but after being recognized as the reincarnation of the nineteenth Rinpoche, the Chinese came after him. So Constance faked his murder and smuggled him to India, where he’s fulfilling his spiritual destiny. But Constance knew Felder might not believe her story, so she’d sent him to find her lock of hair to convince him of her sanity. When Felder questions her comfort with the knowledge that the lives of others allowed the extension of hers, Constance implies she might not be very sane after all, as she spent over a hundred years living with a killer whose victims included her own sister. Constance is released and goes to live with Pendergast and Tristram.