Add this first novel to the mental bumper, cars school of detecting: here, everyone is slightly off-center, including Howard, who begs his family-dominated board of trustees not to sell the Old Man's newspaper, The Defender, to Gemtrex for 48 hours, during which time he hopes to solve dear old dad's poisoning, with the aid of the Old Man's scrumptious mistress Suzanne and a most cynical reporter, Leeroy. Mother (a.k.a. ""Miss Bounce"") and the rest of the family agree to the plan, but come to regret it when the bum outside the building spouts clues that lead to a daughter-in-law's nude centerfolds; Howard's losing his wife; tarot readings; blackmail involving the Old Man in a long-ago murder cover-up; and some scurrilous Gemtrex connections. Meanwhile, the Old Man's secretary (""The Goldfish"") is ignobly carrying on, despite the rash of Old Man's blackmail letters she must file; her loathing of Suzanne; and her hatred of her nickname--until Howard and Leeroy careen their way into a solution and various and assorted stages of romance. Very wacko, though not always very funny, and with its Laurel-and-Hardy plotting, locked-ward characterizations, and pure zest, it deserves better than its maudlin-motivated killer. A talent to watch, however, particularly for the Russell H. Greenan and Delacorta crowd that likes less violence.