Nine times now have we heard from Berkeley policewoman Jill Smith. Having in Sudden Exposure (1996) been busted to a beat cop after a stint as homicide detective, Jill continues to aggravate her boss and buddies by identifying with social outsiders. This time, local p.i. Herman Ott has disappeared with an unidentified stranger, leaving an equally unidentified unexplained dead body in his characteristically messy office. Mangy but moralistic Herman had had a secret for Jill that he reneged on telling. And now TV celebrity Brian Hemming, champion ""mediator"" between little guys and corporate interests on the eve of a career upgrade to D.C, has also been murdered by: 1) his assistant Roger Macalester, whose idea had been coopted? 2) his ex-wife Daisy Culligan, whose own career had been hung out to dry? 3) Brother Cyril, a cleric with attitude and the disgruntled recipient of Brian's services? 4) or Ott himself, who kept a likely murder weapon stashed in an unused flag-holder? Other questions: was bribery a factor, or chicanery vis-Ã‰-vis the artists' money fund Brian administered? Jill's case wheels in grinding circles as she winnows the ""old tad"" Berkeley culture to find the points where it impinges on corrupt careerism. Obsessed with a stubborn loyalty to absent Ott, she repeatedly disobeys orders until she pays the price. Solid and laden with local color, but lifeless. Whatever secrets Jill uncovers, Dunlap's real preoccupation is with her heroine's conflicted relationship with her cop life and lover, making this more of a sociologically enhanced soap opera than a mystery.