"All the creatures of the night gather in "the Hollows" of Cincinnati, to hide, to prowl, to party... and to feed.
Vampires rule the darkness in a predator-eat-predator world rife with dangers beyond imagining - and it's Rachel Morgan's job to keep that world civilized.
A bounty hunter and witch with serious sex appeal and an attitude, she'll bring 'em back alive, dead... or undead."
- Kim Harrison, Dead Witch Walking
After years of dead-end assignments and the frustration of repeated mistakes on the job, Rachel breaks her I.S. contract with a wish from a leprechaun she is to tag for tax evasion. While Denon, her former boss could care less about Rachel leaving, she's also taking Ivy Tamwood with her, Denon's best runner. Infuriated and unable to take it out on Ivy, Denon puts a hit out on Rachel, effectively destroying her property and evicting her from her apartment.
She takes up residence in an old church with Ivy, with whom she starts an independent runner service, Vampiric Charms Inc, along with the pixie Jenks. Determined to shake her death mark, she decides to root out Trent Kalamack illegal brimstone dealings. Sneaking into Kalamack's estate by taking the form of a mink, she is caught in his office and caged. Kalamack tells her of his plan to hold her as a caged mink on his desk until she begs to be released and she slowly starves herself, only taking carrots from Sara Jane Gradenko, Trent's newly hired replacement secretary, who she feels is as trapped as herself.
Trent takes mink-Rachel to a rat fight hall, where she is to fight the reigning rat champion, Bloody Baron, whom she realizes is also a person being forced to fight. Together, they stage a double knock out and when their 'owners' try to claim them, they escape, assisted by Jenks.
Spurred on by the knowledge gathered overhearing Trent's business dealings and the harsh nature with which he deals with his adversaries, Rachel is even more set to take down Kalamack, but even she realizes her need for greater tools, considering black magic. With the help of Nick, they break into the university secure book repository but just as they have found a book of interest, a demon comes to kill Rachel, turning into the thing she fears most, Ivy. The demon is able to take on vampiric powers while in Ivy's form and bites Rachel repeatedly, pushing more vampire saliva into her than even a master vampire would. Though Rachel is bleeding out, Nick manages to seal a circle, severing the demon's link with its original summoner and allowing him to command it. To save Rachel, he commands the demon to take them through the ever-after to the church, and in doing so, the demon marks both of them once.
Matalina and Keasley are able to patch Rachel back together, but she's in rough shape, having lost a lot of blood. Seeing Rachel's broken state, Ivy is unwilling to let her go back to Kalamack's estate and goes to the FIB with Jenks, telling the chief, Captain Edden, about Kalamack's dealings in illegal biodrugs and former coworker Francis Percy's involvement as the I.S. coverup.
Edden refuses to release Ivy or Jenks without Rachel coming to claim custody since Ivy reacted poorly to the FIB's baiting, injuring several. Edden proposes a deal with Rachel in exchange for his cooperation to get Trent and Francis and to pay off her I.S. contract where she and Ivy will consult with the FIB in situations involving Interlanders to make the FIB more competetive. Rachel grudgingly agrees.
In Rachel's third break-in at Kalamack's estate, she manages to steal information about Kalamack's biodrugs dealings, but without a witness, she'd be unable to pursue it in a trial. With evidence in hand as a security policy, Kalamack has no choice but to hold off on trying to kill Rachel and limit himself to job offers.
This book is named after the Clint Eastwood movie, "Dead Man Walking".