Why do we get the feeling Murphy would rather not be writing mysteries? On his subject--hostile takeovers, golden parachutes, family corporations, and nonprofit foundations--he can be charmingly eloquent, with traces of wry, professorial wit. Off it--a hottub scalding, two sets of anonymous letters, a plethora of lethal dog bites--he presents the flattest effect this side of catatonia. Good manners compel retired lawyer Reuben Frost (Murder Takes a Partner, Murder for Lunch) to attend former client Flemming Andersen's annual family outing, at which the Board Chairman of American Foods Corporation frets that corporate raider Jeffrey Gruen wants his company. To stop the takeover, Flemming insists on Frost's advice as well as that of the current Chase & Ward legal retainers (all genteelly contemptuous of Reuben). Soon Flemming is dead, ditto daughter Sorella, and suspects include other daughter Diana, who is writing a feminist exposÃ‰ of the family business; family ne'er-do-well Laurence and his best friend Winston: Billy the family barfly; nonfamily company president Casper Robbins, glimpsed with Gruen in Gstaad some months back; and, of course, the ruthless Gruen. Atrocious plotting (the killer is pinpointed via a highly unlikely overhearing of a radio cab message), banal denouement (gather-in-the-library-and-I'll-tell-whodunit), silly red herring (disgruntled employee hate mail). Financially sound, though, and when the focus is on acquisitions, not murders, absolutely dependable.