As the title suggests, this installment in the 87th Precinct series takes place during a stifling heat wave that simply will not let up. The heat and humidity are torturing everyone as are the problems, both professional and personal, confronting the Precinct's detectives.
As the book opens, detectives Steve Carella and Bert Kling are called to a death scene. A woman has arrived home from a week-long trip to London to discover the body of her husband decomposing on the floor of their apartment. The air conditioner in the apartment has been turned off and the temperature inside the apartment is 109 degrees. The guy has been dead for some time and so, needless to say, things are a bit ripe.
The dead man was an alcoholic and not a very nice person generally. There are no signs of violence and twenty-nine Seconal tablets are missing from the medicine cabinet. It appears that the man has committed suicide, but the law requires that the death be investigated as a possible homicide until officially ruled a suicide. Everything points in that direction, but Carella can't help wondering why the air conditioner was turned off in the middle of a heat wave.
As they investigate the case, Kling tells Carella that he fears that his wife Augusta, a beautiful and highly-paid fashion model, is having an affair. Carella counsels that the best thing to do would be for Kling to discuss his suspicions with Augusta. Kling promises to do so, but instead begins a private investigation into his wife's life. Obviously, this is an action that could have any number of potentially very bad outcomes.
The death investigation is one of the more interesting ones in this series and one feels for poor Bert Kling, who is clearly suffering the tortures of the damned. Together, the two investigations make for a very entertaining read--another good entry in this long-running series.