In New York City, on a cold autumn night, Melody Mitchell leaves her Gramercy Park apartment to walk her dog, Roscoe, and discovers the body of a murdered woman in the back of a parked car. Several months later, a retarded homeless man, Billy Sowell, pleads guilty to the crime and waives his right to an appeal. Two years pass before flamboyant criminal lawyer Maxwell Steinberg takes up the case. Determined to free Sowell, Max hires young Marty Blake, a private eye coming off a year's suspension for conducting an illegal surveillance. Acting on a whim, Blake decides to locate the now-retired cop in charge of the original investigation, Sergeant Bill Kosinski. Together these two misfits, each for his own reasons, set out to prove that Billy Sowell was framed. But Sowell's innocence turns out to be the least of their problems. The deeper they probe, the more dangerous the game becomes, until the only resolution open to Marty Blake is a no-win confrontation with corruption and violence.