Like his creator, who's just returning to fiction after a sabbatical writing and directing Hollywood comedies like Striptease, New York shamus Jack LeVine has just come through a trying period, and he's in no mood for trouble. So NBC Symphony violinist Fritz Stern's claim that the orchestra's beloved conductor Arturo Toscanini has somehow been replaced with an imposter is exactly the sort of case he doesn't want. But a brief conversation with suspiciously obliging Sidney Aaron, NBC's Vice President for Special Programming, persuades Jack that the maestro is indeed missing, and that the network knows something about it. Before Jack can figure out exactly how much they know (have they been sitting on ransom demands for several months hoping to bargain the kidnappers down? did they have a conveniently trained double ready for a switch themselves? is their fear that the infant medium of television will drive the big-ticket orchestra into the red the motive behind the plot?), his client is killed execution-style, and Jack's looking at the serious involvement of heavy hitters from RCA head David Sarnoff to mob kingpins Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano to Stern's knockout daughter Barbara, whose not-so-hidden assets may make her the heaviest hitter of all.
Though the biggest surprises come early on, Bergman (Hollywood and LeVine, 1975, etc.) piles on canny 1950 detail and keeps the story moving so smartly from New York to Havana to Las Vegas that you won't have a minute to consider what gossamer nonsense it is.