A debut novel set in Chicago, where Sheila Travis, widow of diplomat Tyler Travis, has taken a job as assistant to John Dehaviland--the vain, pompous president of Markham Institute, a venerable but fading training center for outstanding students of world affairs. Sheila has been at Markham just a week when the body of Melanie Forbes is found, rolled in a missing Persian rug, in an unused basement room. Melanie was the little-liked ex-girlfriend of student Quint Barringer, who is Detective Mike Flanagan's chief suspect, despite a solid-seeming alibi. Sheila and her rich, shrewd aunt Mary disagree and are convinced they can find the real killer. There's a surfeit of suspects: proctor Stan Frieze; lecturer Cal Williams; business manager Nick Capeletti; piano-playing student Peter Lucas; and his nerdy cousin Jim, and others barely distinguishable from one another. Sheila and Mary have a few days of heavy sleuthing--during which Sheila's nearly strangled; Nick's pushed down a flight of stairs; and Evelyn Parsons, Melanie's only close friend, is found murdered. In the meantime, Flanagan has broken Quint's alibi and arrested him. The intrepid ladies soldier on--at last producing the true villain, as well as the bland conclusion to a competently written story that stubbornly remains very, very dull.