The sixth entry in one of the better p.i. series currently available finds St. Louis shamus Ale Nudger being hired by one Vanita Lane, who--the day after a plane from New York explodes--appears and says that she thinks her boyfriend, Ropes, was murdered and that the plane crashed because of him--he was trying to seam some New York guys out of hot diamonds. Before Nudge can even bank her retainer, Vanita's tortured and disembowled, and the New York sharpies--Bobinet and the cancer-stricken Skeleton--are after her sister Marlou Dee, just in case she's got the ice. Nudge hides her in a Hannibal motel for safekeeping; then the goons threaten his ladylove Claudia, who finds a p.i. dead in her car as a warning (he was tailing her for Nudge's ex-wife). The climax comes when Bobinet and the Skeleton follow Nudge and Marlou to a tourist boat ride, where the wily Miss Marlou tosses the ice into a drink--or does she? A stretched-thin plot, but still engaging, particularly with Nudge's warm relationship with Claudia, the continuing bickering with his ex, and the excellent characterizations.