This story of two men, each burdened by history and talent, intertwines like a magical fugue through the most violent decades of our century. When a strangely carved violin appears at auction in London, one bidder is determined to succeed. At twenty thousand pounds, he considers himself fortunate. He would have paid any sum to have the beautiful instrument, a seventeenth-century Jakob Stainer, in his possession once again. Many years before, two boys, companions, perhaps brothers, were united by their lust for music. How they were ultimately divided is revealed in a story that travels from post World War 1 Budapest to pre-Nazi Vienna.