When it comes to motives for crime, the past can never be forgotten. Sara Hirsch is a nervous elderly spinster who still lives in the flat above a long-standing Florentine antiquities shop in which she was raised. Frightened, she calls Marshal Guarnaccia for help, sure those strangers have been in her apartment. The marshal knows she is a lonely old woman but he is preoccupied with an investigation into an Albanian prostitution ring. Before he can respond to her latest alarm, she is found dead. The marshal's search for the villains who precipitated her death brings him into confrontation with the past, with Jewish refugees from fascism, and with English expatriates, including the ailing heir to the elegant Villa L'Uliveto, Sir Christopher Wrothesly.