This novel, the fifth in the 'Detroit Crime Mystery Series', begins at a party on New Year's Eve 1972, at the Grosse Pointe estate of the Crownover-Ogdens, one of Detroit's prominent philanthropic families. Paul Kubicek, a hardened and cynical veteran of the Detroit Police Department, is moonlighting as security for the Crownover-Ogdens when 3 robbers gate-crash the party via motorboat from a nearby river. Kubicek kills 2 of the robbers after a short exchange and wounds the third. Kubicek pads him down and finds that he, an African American man sporting an Afro, is unarmed. Nevertheless, Kubicek has the final say with his .45. (In all the uproar, the driver of the motorboat had made good his escape.)
The circumstances surrounding the incident are not clear-cut, given that Kubicek had interfered with the crime scene to support an exaggerated account he gave his superiors at headquarters. (After all, moonlighting was strictly forbidden.) Enter Charlie Battle, a young African American cop who was posted to Special Investigations to uncover the truth behind the attempted Grosse Pointe robbery. Two older white cops are added to give Battle the benefit of their experience. But, in truth, both resent Battle and seek to undermine his investigation at every turn, one of the cops going so far as to share with Kubicek some details from said investigation.
There is also a former Black Panther and would-be revolutionary on the FBI's Most Wanted List (Wilson McCoy), who is holed up in one of the neigbhorhoods that figured prominently in the July 1967 riot. Increasingly paranoic, McCoy seeks allies and fresh arms, going so far as to enlist the services of a gunrunner for the desired weaponry.