An unusual case for widowed Inspector Charmian Daniels, now of the Deerham Hills CID--whose quiet bailiwick is suddenly the target of a series of robberies, from boutiques to banks, all of which are entered with keys. Meanwhile, the daily appearance of a mute transvestite named Gloria has the town talking. And a body washed ashore, strangled and sexually abused, eventually identified as that of escaped convict Terry Jarvis, further strains Charmian's understaffed department, especially after Chief Inspector Walter Wing is injured in a car crash. Charmian slowly homes in on Charm and Chic, a new beauty salon owned by Diana King, who leads a predatory gang that includes her accountant sister Bee, manicurist Baby, and Baby's lesbian lover Phil. Charmian convinces Diana that she can be bought and offers to help launder the bank loot--in an unconvincing undercover operation that nevertheless solves the murder and brings a rough justice in its wake. Menacing omens and fuzzy feminist and psychological perceptions are overworked here. The staccato writing is no help. A mildly original slant and some lively characters keep boredom at bay, but this one's a disappointment after the author's less mannered and more interesting Windsor Red.