Max Bek is a 1970s wunderkind and Philadelphia's answer to the nation's better-known gurus and transgressors who graduated from the free love and drugs of the sixties, to the cusp of Reagan era business and New Age values. He is highly intelligent, charismatic, and sees himself as a link between environmentally conscious youth and a business community seeking connection to the demographic that is his following. He has all the qualities that pretty and accomplished Linda Record left Texas to find when she chose Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia instead of her parents' choice for her, the University of Texas.
She moves in with Max shortly after meeting him, but even her benign nature, finds difficulty with Max's narcissistic eccentricities. One of them is answering the door naked, but more disconcertingly, his promotion of an open relationship in which each is free to have sex with others—discreetly, of course—yet he proves capable of jealous outbursts.
As his darker side unfolds and Linda gathers strength with the help of friends, she decides to leave him. But before she does, she mysteriously disappears. Private detective Owen Bridger is called in by her parents to uncover why Linda failed to pick up the ticket left at the airport for her to fly to Dallas. He is joined by Philadelphia homicide detective Michael Haywood. They soon surmise Linda has been killed, and Max an early suspect. Haywood finally obtains a search warrant and Linda's desiccated body is found in a trunk in Max's porch closet.
Following his arrest, he is released on a shockingly low bail while awaiting trial. Meanwhile, what began as a circumstantial case ripens into solid, conviction-assured, physical evidence. But immediately prior to trial, Max jumps bail and goes on the lam to Ireland. A cat-mouse game ensues between Max and his two pursuers. Locating him proves difficult. Max has friends in high places and develops a following owing to his research and rap about parapsychology and psychotronic weaponry. When word emerges he's wanted for murder in the States and he is located, his becomes a cause celebre among French free-thinkers, after which a public relations and extradition battle ensue.
Ultimately, Max's defenses and political hopes dissipate. He is extradited from France to face his fate.