Waking up with his current date dead in his bed, Elmer (Snake) Slezak offers his friend, Seattle shamus Thomas Black, a unique defense: She is the latest in a long series of aliens sent to seduce Snake in order to strengthen the extraterrestrial gene pool. He didn't kill her, and, besides, she's only an alien, right? Snake also insists he's being followed by dwarfs, but of course Thomas and his wife Kathy Birchfield, Esq., don't take that part seriously. What's weird is that the truth about the late Roberta Capshaw Sams--involving an identical twin, a homeless friend of Snake's who used to pull down a serious paycheck, and a billionaire industrialist with a taste for women, tattoos, and practical jokes--is almost as wacky as Snake's addled cover story. Though it's tamed by Thomas's quirky sweetness, his ninth case (The Vanishing Smile, 1995, etc.) is hands down the wildest of them all.