A grisly, downbeat, so-so debut for Puerto Rican shamus Willy Diaz--who's hired by wealthy banker Thomas Deluca to Fred Maria Juarez, the missing fiancÃ‰e of Deluca's beloved son (recently killed in a motorcycle accident). What happened to lovely young widow Maria, mother of three, who vanished from her Spanish Harlem home eight months ago? Is it just a coincidence that her favorite priest was gorily murdered just about the time of Maria's disappearance? To answer these questions, Diaz trudges through seedy bars and UP tenement stairs, soon learning that--in addition to a young fiancÃ‰--Maria also had an older, shadowy admirer. Soon, too, Diaz is being stalked by desperate druggies and a massive hit-man, apparent agents of the powerful mystery-man in Maria's past. And meanwhile Diaz, who beds prostitutes but grieves for his wife (murdered three years ago), falls hard for Maria's sister Carmen--who's entangled in a steamy affair with a sugar daddy of her own. The periodic jolts of violence (Carmen is raped, Diaz avenges) are of the standard visceral sort. McDowell overdoes the tough shamus' sentimental side and throws in a gratuitous porno-sex sequence for Carmen and her Park Avenue lover. But the Spanish Harlem backgrounds are grittily effective, the plot's primary twist is solidly handled (complete with some grand guignol touches), and Diaz shows some potential for distinctive, mean-streets development.