Sent reeling into a deep depression by the death of her beloved dog Mildred, San Diego Child Protective investigator Bo Bradley's not ready for any untoward excitement in her life. But when Mort Wagman, a volatile standup comic who's been her fellow patient at the Ghost Flower Lodge, is shot to death, it's Bo's job to find a guardian for his six-year-old son Bird, whose family tree has no other branches, and whose attention-deficit hyperactive disorder doesn't make him the world's best candidate for foster placement. On top of Bird's other problems, somebody may be trying to kill him--presumably the same somebody behind the disappearance of Old Ayma, another schizophrenic patient vanished from Ghost Flower Lodge--the same somebody who's taunting Bo, struggling as always with manic-depression, by sending her cruel reminders of Mildred and phoning her to play a yelping dog tape. The obvious culprits are the heavies at MedNet, corporate buccaneers plotting to wrest Ghost Flower Lodge away from the Kumeyaay Indians who founded it. But before Bo's done digging into Mort's past, she will have uncovered a motive more monstrous than either she or the bean-counters at MedNet can imagine. Padgett's fourth novel (Turtle Baby, 1995, etc.) spikes her usual formula--endangered child, tormented antiestablishment heroine, tentacular evil--with her finest, darkest mystery to date. No wonder Bo's so paranoid.