Alan Bernhardt would rather produce plays than solve crimes, but the lack of income from the former forces him to take on cases. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) threaten him with charges of murder related to an old case unless he helps them gather information on billionaire Raymond DuBois. Although the charges against him would not hold up, defending himself would bankrupt Bernhardt, so he agrees to help the agents find Betty Giles, former curator of DuBois’ art collection.
Under DuBois’ orders, Bernhardt had directed Giles to hide out in Europe to save her from an assassination attempt; he now tells her to go further undercover. DuBois becomes aware of the FBI’s mounting case against him. Aware that Bernhardt already may know about his collection of stolen paintings through Giles, DuBois hires Bernhardt to sell the paintings. Without the paintings in his possession, the FBI would have no case against him.
Insurance investigator John Graham suspects that DuBois owns stolen art for which Graham’s company paid claims and therefore now owns. He contacts Bernhardt and offers to pay Bernhardt to set up a meeting with DuBois. Bernhardt decides to play both sides and act as a broker in the sale of the artworks by DuBois to Graham.
DuBois suspects an indictment within several days, putting a deadline on the sale. Bernhardt sets up a plan to deliver the paintings and transport cash from the sale to Bernhardt, unaware that other parties are aware of the transaction. The transfer becomes complicated by uncertainty about the allegiances of various players and the involvement of third parties, including a wealthy South American beauty. Bernhardt is forced to rely on his wits in an improvised plan to avoid being killed and to avoid capture by the police while in possession of the paintings. Wilcox cleverly draws all the characters together in an increasingly complicated plot, adding unexpected twists with each chapter and leaving open the possibility of a sequel to this book, which in turn is a sequel to BERNHARDT’S EDGE.