One of the best things about shamus Harry Stoner (Final Notice, etc.) is that he's in Cincinnati, not California. So what does Valin do here? He sends Stoner to L.A.--to investigate the death (natural? suicide? murder?) of frazzled Quentin Dover, Cincy-based head writer for a soap-opera sponsored by a big Ohio company. First, though, Valin visits aging, impotent Dover's babydoll widow, a suicidal, sexually voracious wreck (whom Stoner will sleep with, try to save). Then, guided by likable company flunky Jack Moon, it's off to Tinsel Town, where Stoner tries to reconstruct Dover's last days, with help from a Mexican chambermaid (who is soon murdered). Clearly, something's fishy within the soapopera production team: there's a homosexual writer who hated Dover, a desperate producer, and panicky secrets about the condition of the script. (Ratings are falling.) But is there also some drug action--as there'll always be in a 1980s hard-boiled L.A. mystery? There is indeed. And, after a violent detour to New Mexico, Stoner will unmask the culprits, one of whom is intended (but doesn't succeed) as a surprise. Some sturdy characterization and shrewd dialogue--but Valin lays on the L.A. decadence too thick, Stoner's less appealing than usual, and this is third-string work from a sometimes first-rate talent.