When James Harris left the army after a stint in Vietnam, he had been blinded and was suffering from serious psychological problems. Ten years later, he's living on his disability pension, on the small amount of money his wife makes, and on the pan-handling he does every day on the streets of Isola. Then, one cold winter evening, he and his seeing-eye dog, Stanley are making their way home when someone--a lunatic, perhaps?--chloroforms Stanley, then slashes Harris's throat and leaves him bleeding to death on the street.
Steve Carella of the 87th Precinct lands the case and begins the job of trying to determine who might have wanted the blind man dead. He and Detective Meyer Meyer interview Harris's widow, who is also blind, but she appears to have no information that might be of any help.
Later, Carella and Meyer return to the Harris apartment to escort Mrs. Harris to the morgue so that she can officially identify her husband's body. But they now discover Mrs. Harris dead, also with her throat slashed, and someone has tossed the apartment, obviously looking for something.
The detectives begin digging into the relative pasts of both Mr. and Mrs. Harris in the hope of finding something that might shed some light on their murders. They turn up some interesting background on each of the victims and some potential suspects, but the deeper they dig into the case, the more confusing--and hopeless--it seems to become.
This book, which first appeared in 1982, is a little more than halfway through the long-running 87th Precinct series, and it's a pretty good read. McBain still has a habit of including perhaps a bit too much of the penal code in the narrative and he occasionally wanders a bit too far off on a tangent, but those are small complaints. The plot is a clever one, and Steve Carella will need all his wits about him if he's going to find a solution to this case. As always, it's fun to watch him in action.