Harvey Mapes is an avid fan of PI fiction, TV, and movies. On the night shift as a gate guard at Bel Vista Estates, he dreams of what it would be like to be a hardboiled hero in the mold of Travis McGee, Spenser, Jim Rockford, et al. He sees a chance to live the dream when Cyril Parkus, one of Bel Vista's residents, asks him to shadow his wife Lauren.
Winging his way through the job, Mapes manages to learn Lauren has been secretly meeting with a blackmailer. He proudly reports this to Cyril, who thanks him and tells him the job is done. Once sparked, however, Mapes's curiosity must be satisfied. He sets off to fill in the details of the case with the help of his neighbor Carol.
Goldberg's clever premise allows him to present a refreshingly un-macho hero to whom any fan of the P.I. mystique can relate. Facing the hard realities behind private eye genre cliches, Harvey believably discovers truths about the case and about himself.