In 1828 in Edinburgh, Scotland, grave robbers provide Dr. Knox with the corpses of the recently deceased. Knox is a professor at the university where medical students take in his every word. He is not only venerated by his students but by his ward and niece Martha, who has returned from her Paris finishing school unexpectedly. He is somewhat arrogant however and is held in contempt by many of his less able colleagues. One of his students, Chris Jackson meets barmaid Mary Patterson when he goes to the tavern to pay off the grave robbers and become involved with her. William Hare and William Burke take to killing lodgers at Burke's house and delivering them to Knox as a means to make money. One of Dr. Knox's colleagues, Dr. Geoffrey Mitchell, begins to suspect the origin of the numerous corpses Hare and Burke provide. When Hare kills Mary in a fit of passion, Jackson discovers her body in the lecture room and he too is killed by the body snatchers. Their scheme begins to unravel quickly leading to their arrest. Knox also has to deal with the fallout of his implicit participation in their scheme.