Jeff Talbot, a Louisiana trial lawyer with a penchant for booze, arrives in San Francisco dreaming of big-city success in Peak's first mystery. He ends up instead sharing a bottle and a sleeping bag with a woman who is knifed to death while they lie passed out in a public park. Katy DiAnuncio, the cop who questions him, has more than a professional interest in the case; the victim was her sister Colleen. After Katy rescues him from suddenly dangerous streets, Jeff agrees to take a job in the law firm where Colleen was employed, hoping to find some clues to her murder. His path crosses that of Peter St. John, one of the firm's founding partners, when it becomes known that the dead woman was a witness in a malpractice suit recently filed against Peter's surgeon son. Various other complications are revealed: A senator has been killed, drugs were stolen and sold, someone has been dumping nuclear waste in the Marianas Trench. In the midst of this intrigue, a major earthquake strikes the city, obliging Katy to take time out from her investigation to perform various acts of heroism. Perhaps the same earthquake shook all the ends loose from this mystery. Unfinished subplots and outrageous coincidences mar a story that begins well and features an entertaining prose style.