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The strangled body of a 9-year-old girl is discovered behind a hedgerow bordering her school playground in York, Pennsylvania. The local authorities’ only clue lies in a scrap of paper left in her front pocket, with a short phrase printed on it in an unfamiliar language.
Jackson Byrne, an FBI agent who specializes in investigating crimes against children, has just completed a book tour promoting his best-seller about solving his most recent high-profile case—the abduction and murder of a celebrity’s young daughter. Unexpectedly, Jack receives an invitation from an old family friend and powerful political insider urging him to run for the U.S. Senate. At the same time, his FBI division learns of the murder of another child with a similar mysterious message, launching them into a search for a serial killer given the moniker The Playground Predator. As Jack becomes torn between his excitement about a new career and others’ expectations of a celebrated investigator, he must also continue to deal with demons from his past. While Jack’s devoted wife, a sycophantic young FBI colleague, and an ambitious and attractive female reporter all try to influence his path, none of them pulls the strings as effectively as the enigmatic Randall, the psychologically disturbed but brilliant Playground Predator himself, who orchestrates his own master plan, eventually dragging Jack into an inevitable showdown.