It's Christmas Eve in Washington DC, Detective Alex Cross is at home with his family decorating the tree and enjoying a Cross family tradition, a big bowl of egg nog, when he receives a phone call that causes the festivities to be put on hold.
Across town in a mansion house, Henry Fowler, a hard-nosed corporate lawyer turned small-time drug hustler, is holding his children, his ex-wife, her new husband and a neighbour at gun point. High on crystal meth and heavily armed, Fowler is refusing to speak with the negotiator.
As an expert in hostage situations, Alex has been called in to try and save a potential massacre. But with Fowler crazed and irrational, will Alex be able to save the lives of these hostages, as well as coming out alive himself?
At the same time, international terrorist Hala al Dossari has been planning a devastating attack to strike at the heart of the Western world on the most important day of the year - Christmas Day.