Divorced from a philandering con man, downsized as a talk radio producer, and desperate for funds, Barbara Reed learns what real stress is when she signs on as a high school substitute teacher and discovers history teacher Henry Stoddard strangled with his own outdated tie. Stoddard allegedly was blackmailing administrators including the one who, after a frantic search of Stoddard’s room, accuses Barb of stealing his shake-down material, then assigns her to cover the dead man’s classes. Staggered by daily load of grading and lesson planning, Barb finds no relief at home—her domineering sister drops by, her ex moves in with a neighbor, and that neighbor shoves Barb and her ten-pound dog Cheese Puff into an icy river. When Barb finds a second body, the noose of circumstantial evidence tightens. With only the showgirl widow of a reputed mobster, a dumpster-diving derelict, and Cheese Puff Care and Comfort Committee to help, she sets out to find justice her own way.