The Serpent and the Rainbow is a story in which a man named Dennis Allan is a medical scientist who goes and visits Haiti on the trail of a circulated rumor of a highly effective and deadly drug which renders the user physically paralyzed but fully conscious. The drug's side effects have been told to often fool some inexperienced doctors, who see that the body is paralyzed and not moving and then declare the victims of the drug deceased. Could this be the rumored beginning of the "zombie" legend that Allan has heard of?
Allan decides that he wants to see the drug for himself, and then begins to embark on a surprising and eye opening investigation of the turbulent and bloody social hysteria that is Haiti during the intense revolution which had eliminated dictator "Baby Doc" Duvalier from power. Allan must decide what is scientifically true versus word of superstition, and what is the unknown in a crime-ridden society that has no rules.