The young artist Sabine Held is suspected of having beaten to death celebrity astrologist Philip Ross; she had painted some frescoes for the ceiling of his villa, and apparently Ross refused to pay the young woman. Inspector Allberg finds one of Dr Lessing’s visiting cards in Sabine Held’s home, and thus it emerges that she had consulted Lessing for advice about the fresco dispute with Ross. Now Lessing takes charge of her defence and discovers that Sabina was found unconscious next to the dead astrologist. So far there has been no trace of the murder weapon. And the other perplexing fact about the whole case is that a fire broke out in the astrologist’s villa at almost exactly the same time.
Did this young woman really beat Ross to death and then start a fire which she was unable to escape from? It quickly becomes apparent that there is something fishy about the whole affair. Sabine is suffering from post-traumatic stress, so Dr Lessing calls in the psychologist Dr Fichte for advice. Naturally private detective Matula starts making enquiries of his own, and soon he establishes that the estate agent Kreutz and the building contractor Deinert also had motives for wanting to dispose of Ross: not long ago they conned him into paying millions for a villa that was so ridden with dry rot as to be virtually worthless. What's more, when Lessing and Matula look more closely at the victim’s circle of friends and acquaintances, they come across his last client, the publisher Patrizia Moll, who initially claims that her relationship with Ross was purely of a business nature.
Since Patrizia Moll announced she is to retire from the day-to-day running of the company, a vicious struggle for power has broken out between the art director Elvira and the assistant editor Lissy… a contest which Lissy appears to be winning by virtue of some special relationship with Patrizia Moll. But what could all this intrigue have to do with the murder of Philip Ross? And what is the significance of the fragments that Sabine Held now begins to recall, memories which cause her considerable distress? Dr Lessing and Matula discover that the solution to the case lies in the complex network of relationships between the individuals involved, which are all subject to constant shifting and realignments.