Miami Times reporter Ward Jansen returns to his sleepy hometown of Lately, Florida, where a decades-old façade of Southern gentility strains against the sweeping social changes of the 1960s. Accompanied by his writing partner Yardley Acheman and sultry death-row groupie Charlotte Bless, Ward is chasing the career-making story of violent swamp rat Hillary Van Wetter, who claims to have been framed for the murder of a corrupt local sheriff. Drafting his younger brother Jack to serve as his driver, Ward tries to unravel the mystery of the crime, aided by a mountain of evidence Charlotte has amassed to prove Van Wetter's innocence. As the prisoner awaits the electric chair, the Jansen family's longtime maid Anita watches in alarm as Jack becomes more and more infatuated with the alluring Charlotte. But when Ward's investigation reveals a web of deception, it sets off an explosive chain reaction that pulls everyone involved into a quagmire of evil as dark as a Florida bayou.