Arthur McCullough, a part-time detective, is hired by his octogenarian client to investigate the murder of his roommate. It is his adamant contention that the roommate, also an octogenarian named Walter Rupert, was killed during a robbery and that the target of the robbery was a book that had been in Rupert’s family for several generations. However, very few people have ever seen the book, it can’t be found, and no one seems to know why it is valuable. McCullough, nicknamed Bird because of his appearance and some personal quirks, reluctantly agrees to investigate.
In tracking the missing book, he meets some of the best and worst that New York City has to offer. By combining his limited detective skills, luck, and a generous helping of common sense, he is able to find a copy of the elusive heirloom. But even after the book is found, the questions remain; why is the book valuable, and why was Walter Rupert killed? The final explanation of its value involves family hatreds, assassination, and a precious heritage turned sour.