A superrational, organized child, Konrad Castiletz grows up and out of his obsessions with salamanders through another preoccupation with women into a perverted romanticism that finds him attached to the dead sister of his wife. Although his own life is well arranged, his place in textiles assured, his social position guaranteed, he still must deal with the mysterious circumstances of the supposed robbery and certain death of his sister-in-law, Louison Veik, on a train some years before. In secret pursuit of another's guilt, he finds--inexorably--his own, for in a capricious student prank he himself had unwittingly caused Louison's death by frightening her with a skeletal skull. The absurdity of order reigns--he had killed and created his fetish himself--and is himself destroyed in a foolish accident not long after this discovery. The development of character is attempted within the superstructured plot, but the lesson of ""every man"", failing its mark, becomes more of a readable novelized mystery. At times it seems contrived although in general the story manages to make sense. Orderly obsessions with a twist of fate.