A lumpy legal fantasy from an author more at home when he sticks to the courtroom (Final Argument, 1993, etc.). After a whirlwind courtship, New York trial lawyer Dennis Conway gives up the rat race for the ardent embraces of Sophie Henderson, mayor of stratospheric Springhill, Colorado. Life is slower, the air is purer, the skiing is great, even if the natives sometimes lapse into the solipsistic patois of Springhill and the Conway children's beloved dog disappears without a trace one day. Then, out of the blue, Dennis's in-laws are arrested for murder. Bibsy Henderson's pillbox, filled with nitroglycerin and other telltale medications, is found on the scene of a killing-by-lethal-injection way up in the hills--the double execution of old Henry and Susan Lovell (their dog has been killed too by a well-placed arrow)--and in an unguarded moment when Dennis isn't present to caution her, Bibsy breaks down and blurts out something very like a confession to her husband and codefendant. So it's off to court, and the scenes fans of usually reliable trial veteran Irving will have been waiting for. But this time the courtroom proceedings fizzle: Both sides, unable to produce rabbits from their threadbare hats, merely recap familiar ground, and the obligatory bickering between Dennis and deputy D.A. Ray Boyd doesn't have any resonance. The only surprise comes when the trial trails off so soon, leaving in its wake a predictable verdict and 70 pages more to fill. The overextended epilogue--an earth-shattering revelation from Sophie that alert readers will have foreseen by the end of chapter four, and a melodramatic, get-out-of-Dodge finale that pits Dennis against the elements and the suspiciously conspiratorial residents of Springhill--feels like a last-minute rewrite by a demented script doctor. Perry Mason meets Lost Horizon. In this case, the horizon, like Shangri-la itself, should have stayed lost.