Stanley Hastings--would-be writer, part-time investigator (signing up clients for an ambulance-chasing lawyer), middle-aging husband and father--is a self-declared ""ineffectual shmuck."" But when destiny gives Stanley some clues to a Manhattan murder, he decides to become a real detective--with unconvincing motivation but with highly entertaining results. The body of respectable business-exec Martin Albrecht is found, mutilated, in a midtown parking lot, mystifying the NYPD. Stanley, however, thanks to a recent run-in with Albrecht, knows that the dead man (in over his head with gambling debts) had secretly become a Miami-to-NY courier for the cocaine trade. . .and had foolishly tried to steal from his crime-bosses! So, with help from a courtly veteran thief, Stanley starts sleuthing. He gets hold of the dead man's address book; he identifies the local drug connections, from big-dealer to East Village users; he finds Albrecht's stolen coke stash in a Miami safe-deposit box. And soon, adopting several disguises (above all a phone-repairman's uniform), Stanley is gathering enough evidence--tapping phones, planting transmitters on cars--to nail the entire drug-ring. Even though Stanley avoids violence or direct confrontations with the bad-guys, his sudden gutsiness--like his reason for undertaking this solo mission--is never guite credible. The drug-ring plot itself is humdrum. But screenwriter Hall (C.H.U.D.) makes Stanley a witty, endearing narrator--with sharp, wry commentary on everything from MacDonald's restrooms and low-income housing projects to un-clichÃ‰d marital angst. And, thanks largely to the fascinating, authentically seedy details of Stanley's reluctant ambulance-chasing (which he has to juggle with his murder-sleuthing), this is zesty, shrewdly paced caper-comedy--reminiscent of the best of (among others) Lawrence Block and Joe Gores.