When two men turn up dead in a sleazy apartment, one shot and the other stabbed, detectives Brown and Carella conclude that the man who lived in the apartment surprised a burglar and killed him, but not before the burglar was able to inflict a fatal blow on the tenant. It seems like an open-and-shut case until the detectives discover that one of the men is holding a small piece torn from a photograph. What could that be all about?
Shortly thereafter, an insurance investigator shows up in the squad room and says that the two victims were loosely tied to a bank robbery several years earlier. $750,000 was taken and is still missing. The investigator's company had to pay off the claim and the investigator is still on the hunt.
It turns out that most of the men who committed the robbery are dead, but when they hid the loot, they took a photograph of the location. They then tore the picture into pieces and distributed them to trusted acquaintances as an insurance policy. The detectives now have one of the eight pieces of the photo; the investigator has leads on a couple of others and suggests they cooperate in finding the others and recovering the stolen money.
Well one thing leads to another, as it almost always does, but a clever killer seems to be one step ahead of Carella and the other detectives. Will they be able to recover the missing pieces of the picture, and how many people will die before they can?
This is a fairly typical 87th Precinct novel; it's relatively short and a good way to lose an evening. The series has now progressed to 1970; the sexual revolution is in the air, and not all of the detectives are comfortable with the fact. This makes for some amusing moments is what is, all in all, another entertaining entry in the series.