When the daughter of an old Florentine family dies, she leaves a bequest to her lover Max Mather, an American art historian who has been managing the family's rare art collection.
Mather is left with two priceless artworks by the great Renaissance master Raphael - without the family's knowledge. As Mather contrives to have the artworks discovered at auction in New York, big-time collectors, dealers and auctioneers are drawn into his game. In trying to out-deal the deal makers, he becomes embroiled in a tangled web surrounding the brutal murder of a promiscuous Manhattan painter, Madeleine Bayard.
The two stories intertwine in this fast-paced tale of intrigue and murder in the international art world.