Balinda Little, the daughter of Seattle p.i. Thomas Black's former cop partner Luther Little, has disappeared, leaving behind a bullet-riddled car containing nine birth certificates and a dead man. It's a great setup, but despite appearances, it doesn't lead anywhere but to Luther's grotesquely extended family--Balinda's mother Laronda Sands; Laronda's mother Pookie; Balinda's sister Shereffe; Luther's son Shawn Brown; Laronda's brother Raymond; Laronda's son D'Witt Sands; and Dion Williams, the father of Balinda's little girl. The most intriguing mystery about the late Benjamin Aldrich, white-bread jogger and former Eagle Scout, is obvious and solved too quickly, and this time the characters and the byplay between Thomas and his lawyer-wife Kathy Birchfield (badinage based on children's puzzles in logic) aren't interesting enough to take up the slack. ""For me, playing the dope had never been a whole lot of work,"" says Thomas. He's much too modest, but his 11th adventure really is lesser work from the accomplished author of Deception Pass (1997).