The hooker was young, pretty… and dead, butchered in a Greenwich Village apartment. The murderer, a minister’s son, has already been caught and become a jailhouse suicide. The case is closed as far as the NYPD is concerned. But the victim’s father wants it reopened — he wants to understand how his bright little girl went wrong and what led to her gruesome death. That’s where Matthew Scudder comes in. He’s not really a detective, not licensed, but he’ll look into problems as a favor to a friend, and sometimes the friends compensate him. A hard drinker and a melancholy man, the former cop believes in doing an in-depth investigation when he’s paid for it, but he doesn’t see any hope here — the case is closed, and he’s not going to learn anything about the victim that won’t break her father’s heart.
But the open-and-shut case turns out to be more complicated than anyone bargained for. The assignment carries an unmistakable stench of sleaze and perversion, and it lures Scudder into a sordid world of phony religion and murderous lust, where children must die for their parents’ most secret, unspeakable sins.