The narrator of this novel, having had a wretched childhood and being left shy and bewildered and prone to nightmares, is trying to pull her life together. During the course of this, she discovers that an antique shop is for sale, and buys it with her inheritance. In the course of looking over the stock, she finds a note jammed in one item.
The note writer was apparently expecting to be murdered in short order.
She tries to learn what she can. The former owner kept records and can tell her whom he bought it from; a graphologist tells her that the writer appears to be sane, rather reserved and private, and not really panicking until the end. And she can't stop.
As much a bildungsroman as a mystery, the rest of the story involves sleeping overnight in a van, her favorite book from her childhood, a widow whose niece and nephew visited her every summer, a visit to a mental institution, an artist's model holding out for a man with a million bucks, a woman looking for drinking money, and much more.