The beautiful blonde in the penthouse apartment was dead, her face and body laced with slashes from a paring knife -- grisly evidence of the terrible things the city can do to pretty young women. What sordid web of money, sex, and greed had ensnared Susan Brauer? The stack of unsigned erotic letters in her possession was the first clue. Then the murder of Susan's lover, a married lawyer in his sixties, leads the cops of the 87th to the women left behind: the lawyer's wife, his ex, his daughters. And for Detective Carella, his own father's senseless death in a bakery holdup sears through the intense summer heat -- and sends him on a fevered hunt for the one who made his mother a widow and shrouded his family in grief.