Like Michael's first novel, A Blow to the Head (1970), this far less ambitious book, an odd amalgam of charm and gore, begins as something a little special and winds up as something all too familiar. The something a little special: with an engaging quality weirdly reminiscent of juvenile adventures like The Hardy Boys, narrator Tom Marsh tells how he persuaded his girlfriend Mary and his scruffy college-newspaper cronies to investigate the rumor about alligators in the town sewer system--a rumor begun when Mary's brutish father, superintendent of the waste-water system, came home with a piece bitten out of his leg. Tom flatters Mary's father to get more information (""I've been seriously taking up Waste-Water Treatment as a career, Mr. Malgrem""), Mary steals a map of the sewer system, and down goes the motley crew of five into a man-hole. . . and all they find is a turtle and a carp. So far, so good--in a blandly pleasant way--but then Michael abruptly changes course, and before you know it, the kids are attacked by a strange creature in rags and white hair (one kid dead), and then Mary's dad arrives, shooting a gun (two more dead, goresomely). Seems there's a gruesome, gothicky secret down there in the sewer, but those readers who'd enjoy the grand guignol death-arama won't sit through the low-key charm of the book's first half; and those who have read along enjoying the offbeat characters will be highly annoyed to see them killed off for the sake of some gratuitous bloody action.