Daniel Jacobus lives in self-imposed exile in rural New England. He spends his time chain smoking and berating students in the hope that they will flee. Jacobus, however, is drawn back into the world he left behind when he decides to attend the Grimsley Competition at Carnegie Hall. The winner of this competition is granted the honor of playing the Piccolino Stradivarius,' a uniquely dazzling violin that has brought misfortune to all who possessed it over the centuries. Nineyearold Kamryn Vander wins the competition, but before she can get an opportunity to play the priceless violin, it is stolen. Jacobus becomes the primary suspect and with the help of his friend and former musical partner Nathaniel Williams, and his new student, Yumi Shinagawa, sets out to prove his innocence.