Richard Maxwell's first novel has a negative title, a good many pluses, and something ineffable missing in between. It's the kind of book that could easily attract that damning word ""promise"" which usually means oblivion which is what the book is all about. The minus man, ""a vacuum, a cipher"" is attempting to leave some reminder that he's been there. In this case it's Alan Logan, a lawyer, handling a trial left behind by a sharp old country prosecutor who is dying of cancer. The case involves a killer Gehring, ""made out of plaster and stuck together with spit,"" another minus man who murdered a judge in his chambers. He's not much -- his act perhaps only an assertion of his rage to live. The story (perhaps the weakest part) moves here and there with some set scenes and attention-getting characters and deals with a number of ideas -- justice, real or boughten in this part of west Texas, death both natural and unnatural, etc. Maxwell writes well -- he's sometimes funny, always shrewd about people, and he stays close to the bone.