Someone has set a fire at the Zigfield Art Museum in upper Manhattan. It’s a “locked room” kind of fire that couldn’t possibly have occurred. Or could it? Because of key control and alarms, nobody could have gotten into or out of the gallery to start the fire. But the controversial exhibition of Sarkin Zahedi’s gloomy, expressionist assemblages did indeed burn, and Wylie Nolan, assisted by attorney Max Bramble, has to reconstruct one of the most puzzling fires of his career.
There are plenty of suspects who hate Zahedi's work: Wegman Zigfield, the museum’s founder, who has a special contempt for Zahedi’s kind of art; Jiri Hozda, the Zigfield’s associate director, who objects to the government funding for the show; and young, unworldly Camden Kimcannon, a museum assistant who dislikes most art created after the Pre-Raphaelites of Victorian England.
Meanwhile, at Wylie’s office building, someone is setting fires in the ladies’ room down the hall, trying to implicate Wylie’s good friend, attorney Miranda Yee.
Who hates Miranda enough to set a fire in Wylie’s own territory?
Wylie and Max investigate both fires and then a final, more devastating fire that takes one life and threatens to destroy another.
Three fires: Where did they start and who caused them? When Wylie Nolan investigates a fire scene, he does so meticulously. He calls the facts as he sees them; and he notices details that nobody else sees in spent matches, burn patterns, and ashes.