Carl Burns, the author's outwardly wimpy hero who teaches English at fundamentalist Hartley Gorman College in Texas (One Dead Dean), is again trying to solve a campus-connected murder. The victim this time is Edward Street--once a teacher at the school, now a minor celebrity with two best-sellers, a movie, and lots of bucks. It's Burns' job to organize the events around his return visit to HGC, including a seminar with several papers discussing his work--one of them by sexy university professor Melinda Land, who makes a not-too-subtle play for our hero. Street, an obnoxious braggart, puts everyone on edge by dragging up old scandals involving those staffers still around from his faculty days--like drama prof Don Elliot and business-department head Dick Hayes. Burns, who disliked Street on sight, isn't too astonished then to find him shot to death in his motel room. When small-time reporter Harold Duncan becomes a second victim, Burns' help is grudgingly sought by bellicose Sheriff Boss Napier and smarmy college president Franklin Miller. A broken nose, broken knuckle, lacerations, and some mild concussions later, Burns has nabbed the killer. Burns' quirky personality retains an offbeat charm, but here it's not enough to offset a contrived, ineffectual plot, lurching narrative, and dull characters. Thin stuff.