In Jewish scripture, there is a legend: There are thirty-six righteous people on earth. The thirty-six protect us. Without them, humanity would perish. But the thirty-six do not know they are the chosen ones.
In Beijing, a monk collapses in his chamber, dead. A fiery mark—a tattoo? a burn?—spreads across his back and down his spine. In Mumbai, a beloved economist, a man who served the poor, dies suddenly. His corpse reveals the same symbol. Similar deaths are reported around the world—the victims all humanitarians, all with the same death mark. In Venice, an enterprising Italian policeman links the deaths, tracing the evidence. Who is killing good people around the world?
In Copenhagen, police are preparing for a world climate summit when they receive the Interpol alert. The task falls to veteran detective Niels Bentzon: Find the “good people” of Denmark and warn them. But Bentzon is a man who is trained to see the worst in humanity, not the good. One by one, people are crossed off his list. He senses their secrets and wrongdoings.
Just as Bentzon is ready to give up, he meets Hannah Lund, a brilliant astrophysicist mourning the death of her son and the implosion of her marriage. With Hannah’s help, Bentzon begins to piece together the puzzle of these far-flung deaths. A pattern emerges. It is, they realize, a perfectly executed plan of murder. There have been thirty-four deaths—two more to come if the legend is true. According to the pattern, Bentzon and Hannah can predict the time and place of the final two murders. The deaths will occur in Venice and Copenhagen. And the time is now.