Another over-the-top outing with bookdealer/sometime police assistant Penelope Warren. Penelope and her ever-present cat Big Mike live in Empty Creek, Arizona (Baseball Cat, 1996, etc.), where most conversation evokes the talk on third-rate sitcoms, an annual calendar features local women in the nude, and Sunday brunch at the Double B bar is the week's social highlight. There's even a long-running feud between the Hackers and the Mahoneys. This time around, paleontologist Millicent DeForest is found shot to death in the desert outside town, near some dinosaur bones. An explosion follows, then later the discovery of the remains of Cornelius Hacker, who disappeared more than 20 years ago. Buster Mahoney vanished back then, too--from a psychiatric facility. Penelope is relentless in digging for answers--her efforts intensified by the appearance in town of several exotic visitors--but, of course, it's Big Mike who brings about the solution. Relentlessly arch, overlong, unfocused, and a waste of this writer's talent.