Set in New Orleans, this is a novel about a love triangle. Married mother, Emma Miller, is bored with her husband, her job and her life so she begins a passionate, often violent, affair with Pascal Toussaint, a sadist with whom she becomes obsessed. Pascal, in the meantime, is fixated on a young novice called Claire D'anjou. Claire seems rather cold, is devout to an extreme, and is prone to visions. Pascal's father describes her as 'not satisfied with being only mortal'. Emma endures the same sort of self-effacement in her relationship with Paul as Claire does in her struggle towards religious purity. This is all set against the backdrop of a city overrun by rats and awash with a mysterious plague.