Istina (a geneticist) and her brother (“the apostate”) no longer believe in the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). Genetic research and science have caused each of them to reject the old religions. Religious zealots have placed a bounty on both of them. The novel opens in Rome where a third character, Liko, witnesses and aborts their attempted abduction by bounty hunters and kills one of the attackers. Liko flees to Florence to escape the scene of the crime and coincidentally later finds that Istina is speaking at an international genetics conference in a nearby hotel in Florence. Liko takes the opportunity to meet (and flirt) with Istina. The bounty hunters appear and Istina and Liko together flee to Venice, where they have a short romance. The book ends tragically: early in the morning, Istina leaves their hotel to get coffee and is murdered while Liko looks on, helpless from their hotel window.
• Liko is Hawaiian who is on vacation between high school and college. He is a weight-lifter, 240 pounds and 20 years of age.
• Istina is middle-eastern, a genetic researcher, and in her mid-thirties. In Liko’s words: “I see her for the first time. She is wearing a magenta, thigh-length leather coat, obviously Italian handcrafted. Her black, wavy hair is like a heavy shawl draped over her head, shoulders and coat. She has thick black eyebrows, straight and slanting slightly upward, glossy red lips, and a strong nose. Her dark eyes stare at her male companion, one step ahead of her on the down escalator.”
• The first and last time Liko sees Istina, she is again wearing her magenta Italian leather coat, and the image of that coat haunts him.