Dr. Andrew Fenimore is a Philadelphia general physician who still makes house calls - even when they're in New Jersey - and whose resume, were he to be so immodest as to prepare one, would include triumphs over wicked Homo sapiens as well as dangerous bacillae. In other words, he's a crack amateur detective. It has been his habit to call his Czech cousin every week, and he is especially eager to be in touch with her and her family now, as Anna is to bring her husband, Vlasta, to Philadelphia for heart surgery soon. When he is unable to reach them, he immediately flies back to Prague. If his concern is misplaced, well, he'd always meant to visit the "most beautiful city in Europe," where his mother grew up.
One small mystery is solved almost immediately when the doctor finds the apartment inhabited. For two weeks, Anna's nine-year-old daughter, Marie, has been hiding there, sleeping in the giant oven of the traditional stove, living on crackers and whatever else she could find in the pantry since two men with guns had taken her parents away. Fenimore smuggles young Marie off to Philadelphia, where his secretary, Mrs. Doyle, will care for her, and remains in Prague to find Anna and Vlasta. He looks up one of their colleagues at the university - a large, loud, and somewhat frighteningly flirtatious woman who insists on taking him sightseeing. He can only hope that the tour she takes him on will lead to information about his relatives. Instead, it leads him, first, to a puppet show (a popular feature of Czech culture) on the life of the Emperor Charles IV, and from there into a disturbing maelstrom of crazed ambition and a terrorist plan that would devastate the city. With luck Fenimore is able to block the plan and find his family, but only after the murder of a Czech citizen and a threat to Fenimore's own freedom - and possibly his life. - (Blackwell North Amer)