When Isobel Blackwell comes calling unexpectedly on Lew Archer just minutes before her husband is scheduled to meet with the detective, she expresses concern for her stepdaughter, Harriet. The young woman is about to come into a large trust fund, ...
and she wants to marry a handsome, penniless artist named Burke Damis. Isobel has no objection to the marriage, but Harriet's father, Mark Blackwell, dislikes Damis and is staunchly opposed. Mr. Blackwell asks Archer to investigate Damis, and Archer agrees, partly because he's attracted to Mrs. Blackwell. Murders past and present crowd the investigation as various leads take Archer to Mexico, Lake Tahoe, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Los Angeles. The Zebra-Striped Hearse is indeed colored black and white - but the intertwining relationships of the characters range across many shades of gray.