Inspector Aliette Nouvelle's romantic life is in tatters. This sad fact becomes a heavy distraction as she goes back and forth from France to Switzerland trying to determine who killed a Basel art gallery security guard found at a gay gathering spot on the French bank of the Rhine. A damaged painting of a shoemaker found near the body motivates the inspector almost more than the fact of murder. Aliette identifies with the image of a dedicated artisan working in solitude. With love dissolving, her work has become all-consuming.