In 1911, a young man reignites a bitter political feud when he kisses the wrong girl at a corn shucking in the rural Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Old grudges collide with corrupt politicians and culminate in a massacre inside of the county courthouse. The authorities blame members of the Allen Clan, a family of fiercely independent outlaws and moonshiners led by their patriarch, Floyd Allen, a violent man with a vile temper. The Governor of Virginia calls the shootout “the greatest crime in the history of Virginia, perhaps of the United States” and sends the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency to lead the manhunt after the sheriff, prosecutor, and judge are murdered in the courtroom.

Four people are entangled in the aftermath of the shootout; Wesley Edwards, an ambitious but aimless young man pulled into a feud that started when he was a child; Sidna Allen, a successful businessman enjoying the good life until loyalty to family threatens to ruin him; Edwin Payne, a detective who must choose between the truth or his career; and Maude Iroler, a young woman who can bring her community’s ordeal to an end. Betrayal and vengeance lurk in every narrow valley and dark hollow as Sidna Allen and his nephew are pursued by the ruthless Baldwin-Felts detectives.