Set in a small Italian town rife with petty intrigue and gossip, it begins with Daniele, a minor civil servant, leaving town, ostensibly to attend a professional conference in Bologna. Actually, however, he is headed toward the border, planning to desert his wife Nina, who he finds insufferable. His plans are frustrated, however, by the appearance of a mysterious stranger, who introduces himself as a doctor, and begins to delve into the real dynamics of Daniele's marriage. Though the stranger urges Daniele to proceed with his plan, the young man is increasingly drawn back to his wife. When he returns home, he finds that Nina seems to have killed his supervisor, who had tried to coerce her sexually. Nina involves her husband in the murder plot, and eventually accuses him of the murder.