John Thinnes, a detective on the Chicago police force, and Jack Caleb, a well-known psychiatrist, were friends - unlikely friends, maybe, with very different lives, but men who liked and respected each other. And they had one significant experience in common: Both had been "in country" in Vietnam during the war.
Jack Caleb is a Gold Coast psychiatrist, wealthy, cultured - and gay. John Thinnes is a burned out Chicago detective. When one of Caleb's clients is found dead in his locked apartment - apparently of a self-inflicted head wound, Thinnes doesn't believe it was suicide. And Caleb is inclined to agree. But Thinnes regards a shrink who makes house calls suspicious and starts his investigation of the murder with the doctor himself.
Native American artist Blue Mountain Cat has a style described as "Andy Warhol meets Jonathan Swift in Indian country." When he's murdered at an exclusive showing in a posh art museum, Detective John Thinnes has no shortage of suspects. Targets of the artist's satire included a greedy developer, a beautiful Navajo woman, and black-market antiquities dealers. And some of the museum's patrons were outraged by his work.
Jogging through Chicago's Lincoln Park, Dr. John Caleb comes upon a group of fanatics setting a police car on fire - with the officer inside. Caleb rescues the man but as Chicago heats up in the most brutal summer on record, it becomes clear that this is the first of a series of deadly arsons. As Detective John Thinnes races to find the culprit and Dr. Caleb sets a trap for a murderer, both men are nearly incinerated in the killer's final act.
"Thinnes specialized in homicide. He hated working rapes. Rape was more like a drive-by shooting than anything else because it was often a matter of the victim being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But drive-bys usually happened in the killer's neighborhood and were perpetrated against known enemies or at least innocent neighbors... With rape it was different. Rape hurt the victim when it went down, and again when the cops investigated - no matter how careful they were - Thinnes hated the whole thing.
Most of us are lucky that some simple action - one that we've performed a hundred times - doesn't suddenly plunge our entire life into a private hell. But undeserved or not, unheralded or not, that's what happens to Joanne Lessing, a freelance photographer and the divorced mother of a teenage son.
The accidental death of Mickey Fahey leaves his wife Rhiann paralyzed by grief, his stepson Jimmy cutting school and drinking. The widow's problems are compounded by the unwanted advances of her dead husband's friend. Rhiann does her best to cope, going back to work, dealing patiently with her son's misbehavior, telling Rory Sinter she's not interested.