Confirmed bachelor and professional art authenticator Leonard Anderson, long the protégé of aged and wealthy Luella Pryce, is so in love with her early Cartwright paintings that he cannot wait to receive them—as he has been led to believe—in her will. He removes them for cleaning, has them copied, returns the forgeries to Luella and keeps the originals. Then Luella drops a bomb: she tells Leonard she plans to donate her collection to the local gallery on the Caribbean island of St. Napoli on her death.
Fearing exposure, as Luella is in poor health, yet spurning any notion of switching the paintings back, Leonard conspires with his wicked nephew Tibor to destroy the fakes by burning down Luella’s house while she is away at a gala. But Luella never makes it to the gala. Asleep in her bathtub, she burns along with her house. Authorities blame her careless smoking for the conflagration.
When Leonard suffers disastrous financial losses in the Asian market, Tibor, who has his own needs for quick cash, presses him to sell the Cartwrights in the shady underworld of art acquisition. To get his nephew off his back, Leonard conspires to once again have copies made of the originals. But Cerise, the daughter of an old paramour and a con artist in her own right, catches him in the act. Not above a little blackmail despite her affection for him, she sells her silence for a very expensive necklace. Leonard, meanwhile, sets up a sting to lead Tibor to believe the original Cartwrights are fakes. The transaction with the buyer will take place at the Pleasant Inn, in eastern Ontario, which is run by the irascible Trevor Rudley and his long-suffering wife Margaret.