Loren Mensing--a with-it law professor and former deputy legal adviser to the police department--is engaged to clear authoress Hope Foxworth Dillaway after her novelist husband and a black companion are burned to death in a mountain cabin. First, the evidence points to a fire-bombing despite an apparent police coverup. Then the black man turns out to have been a government spy with a penchant for blackmail. Loren has to contend with a ""clan of demented pen people"" as well as his old flame Lucy. Unsolvably right-on--a forensic find.