In 1796, The Miranda is a ship that lies waiting off the coast of Newburyport, Massachusetts with a deadly disease on board. When the harbormaster and doctor row out to the ship and board it, they discover the captain is dead along with numerous crew members. Those on board, are ordered to remain there, fly the yellow flag warning of quarantine and disease, and are denied permission to come ashore. Despite the orders, in the middle of the night, crew members sneak off the ship and enter the town.
Within days, the deadly disease spreads throughout Newbury and outlying areas. Numerous lives are lost as people succumb to the disease. Medication becomes scarce as unscrupulous men hoard, steal, and try to sell the remedy at horrendous profits. Meanwhile, the disease spreads at an alarming rate. The quarantine extends to the port and all ships are banned from landing. Soon, food and supplies within the town become scarce, adding to the hardships faced because of the deadly virus. The village is soon devastated with fires, illness, and hunger.
There are numerous colorful and intriguing characters in the story, some with good motives, and some with bad. Regardless, they are all fascinating and multi-dimensional. As the disease spreads, so does the tension in the novel. With each chapter comes more tension and more urgency as families are separated and tents are set up to separate those who are ill from those who are not.