Jessica Marsh, who is fifteen and “hasn't lost her baby-fat yet,” lives with her mother on the top floor of a hundred-year-old triplex in Parkdale, a multicultural area in Toronto. Being an ear-witness to a murder is frightening, but when Raffi, a gentle black man who is her mother's boyfriend, is arrested as the killer, Jess is terrified.
While struggling to unravel the crimes, Jess is also dealing with other problems. She has been estranged from her lawyer father for several years, and Raffi's arrest gives her an excuse to reestablish contact. She is harassed at school. Her best friend becomes sexually active and runs away from home. And Jess herself has her own decisions to make about entering into an intimate relationship whe she is pursued by a handsome young refugee from Central America.
These problems are typical of those faced by today's teenagers. Jess handles them awkwardly, emotionally, and occasionally with considerable panache.