A tornado has visited Goldfield, destroying most of the small Midwestern town and in particular, the farm buildings of an old recluse artist. As search and rescue teams, along with a French art expert who appears shortly after the tornado, investigate the building ruins, they find the artistís body stuffed in a freezer. Mayor Ryan Lambert and his young workers learn from a local reporter that the old guy was the last and perhaps the greatest artist of German Expressionism, a movement that was labeled degenerate and nearly eradicated by the Nazis in the 1930s.
As the manís murder is investigated, another body is found floating in the water-filled basement. A dog digs up a severed hand and then a body. Two more bodies are found buried on the property. The investigators surmise that these were artist models and students, each killed in a different way. And each shrouded in a canvas painting. After the art recovered from the nearly destroyed artist studio is deemed original and invaluable by the art expert first on the scene, a second expert, an authority in early-century European art, arrives to claim the entire body of work to be forgeries. A missing Russian nurse, a gallery in Moscow, a man in drag, a top-of-the-line Mercedes, and a spate of duplicate original or paintings lead to a violent confrontation amid mountains of canvases, easels, and frames in an abandoned airplane hangar.