Syndey Vail, once a beautiful soap opera star, enters lawyer-cum-detective Shep Harrington's life in a cloud of dust and vanishes just as quickly, leaving behind two very different but strangely connected things: a chimpanzee and a murder.
The chimpanzee is the young Kikora, whom Sydney liberated from her confining cage in a testing lab at DMI a mega-medical conglomerate led by the hard-driving Howard Doring, who apparently believes that the human animal has every right to exploit all living things.
The murder victim, killed by a blow to the head, is Dr. Celia Stone, the DMI researcher in charge of Kikora.
Soon Shep realizes that Kikora, left in his initially unwilling care, is not only stolen property, but the longer he keeps her, the more threatened his own freedom becomes and the more often tough questions race through his head. What makes an animal property? What is the source of human rights? What about an animal whose only difference from humans is 1.6% of DNA, that can empathize and suffer like humans? The questions confuse Shep, who's never had to think hard about them before.
And the only answers he seems to find lie in the big brown eyes of a chimp called Kikora.