One of the weaker recent 87th Precinct books--never less than readable, but without the textured focus of vintage McBain. The intriguing central case certainly seems, at first, to deserve just that sort of focus: alcoholic artist Jerry Newman is found dead in his apartment, apparently a Seconal-overdose suicide; but Carella of the 87th wonders why the air-conditioning wasn't on (during a fierce heat wave) and suspects foul play, especially when questions arise about Newman's estate--a fortune in his famous late father's paintings. Soon, however, McBain, finding only limited interest in this case (which does indeed turn out to be thin), turns equal attention to a domestic-melodrama subplot about Carella's partner Kling, who suspects that his fashion-model wife is cheating on him. And while this side-story is moderately involving, it has its own subplot--a cheaply contrived one about a vengeful ex-con who's homicidally stalking Kling. Fine when sticking to the police-procedural turf, undistinguished and pulpy elsewhere: an uneven patchwork of a novel from a writer who's pretty good even when, as here, he's miles below par.