Dickinson's retired Supt. Pibble, absent since The Lizard in the Cup (1972), is back--in dreadful shape indeed. He's recovering from a paralyzing stroke (or is it just creeping senility and depression over his wife's death?) in a posh nursing home; and Dickinson's densely playful, free-associative, flashback-and-forward style is used here, sometimes quite effectively, to evoke the fuzziness, humiliation, and frustration of one in such a state. This psychological portrait nearly overshadows the mystery, in fact--which arises when Pibble crawls from his room up to the top of the home's water tower (apparently the start of a suicide attempt) and discovers a murder victim: the bodyguard of an inmate who's an aged Mr. Big of Crime. Even a barely ambulatory Pibble digs out a flurry of motives--the bodyguard's rampant lecheries among the nursing staff, Mr. Big's old nemesis (a female Mr. Big) on the premises, the medically suspicious deaths of some inmates--and feebly fingers the culprit while winning the heart of his nurse as well. Quintessential Dickinson: elegant, oblique, often funny, often grim, often hard to follow--but certainly worth the effort for Pibble's followers and other admirers of wry, high style.