When their maestro is kidnapped, an orchestra hires Jack LeVine to find him.
Jack LeVine has been in a vicious funk since his father died in 1948. But after more than a year sulking in his apartment, joylessly listening to ball games, news reports, and classical music programs on the radio, the private detective has gone back to work in his freshly renovated office. His depression has passed, but those months glued to the radio are about to come in handy.
His first client is a German violinist, who visits LeVine out of concern for his maestro, Toscanini, the famous conductor of the NBC Symphony Orchestra. The maestro's memory is slipping, his conducting style has changed, and his eyesight is suddenly better than it used to be. The violinist suspects that the conductor has disappeared and been replaced by a double. It's an outlandish suspicion, but LeVine takes the case. After all, somebody has to pay for his new office. Soon enough, LeVine finds out that organized crime is playing the tune.
A trip to the West Coast lands Jack LeVine in a tangled Hollywood murder web.
After nearly a decade of churning out hits, Warner Bros. screenwriter Walter Adrian wants a raise on his weekly $2,500 salary. He thinks a thousand dollars more is fair - but the studio's counteroffer is low, and dropping fast. Something is wrong, and he thinks it may have to do with communism.
Though he insists he isn't a Red, Adrian has no way of proving it. He flees to New York to ask the advice of high school buddy Jack LeVine, private eye. LeVine is broke, and has no sympathy for his wealthy friend, but he agrees to fly West to investigate his old classmate's trouble. When he arrives, Adrian hangs dead from the gallows at the Western set on the Warners' backlot. Behind his friend's death LeVine finds a shadowy Cold War conspiracy, and a city far darker than anything Hollywood puts on screen.
Searching for a chorus girl's stag film, Jack LeVine stumbles on a sinister political plot.
Like all chorus girls, Kerry Lane yearns to get her name on the marquee. After years of high-kicking, she lands a bit part in a Broadway smash hit which should lead to better things. The only thing holding her back is her past: specifically a series of stag films from her days as a struggling wannabe film starlet. When a blackmailer demands a payoff to keep them out of the public eye, Kerry comes to Jack LeVine. Stocky, sweaty, and bald, LeVine is a Jewish private detective who makes a living by being polite. But underneath his smile lies a bulldog.
Lured by long legs and a roll of crisp twenties, LeVine takes Kerry's case. But before he can speak to the blackmailer, the crook turns up dead. As LeVine hunts for Kerry's pictures, he finds that the heart of this case is even uglier than greed, lust, or murder. It's politics.