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To tourists, bay-windowed Victorian mansions are quaint, peaceful symbols of old San Francisco, but on the secluded hill above Steiner Street, the gingerbread has sparked a bitter battle. Ambitious developers are pushing for restoration, and residents are fighting for their homes—until a controversial restorationist is found dead on the job, awash in garish house paint.
Private investigator Sharon McCone is called in only to discover a second bitter feud, this time between the developers and members of the city's powerful architectural community. As workmen rip through layers of drywall plaster, and wallpaper, McCone unearths an older crime: a cache of stolen antiques comes to light, and a missing one-of-a-kind Tiffany lamp emblazoned with the glowing profile of the Cheshire Cat becomes McCone's most important clue. To catch a killer, she must follow its eerie, knowing grin before its hidden eye foresees a fatal future.