Jack Paine, a tortured ex-cop now working for a Yonkers, N.Y., detective agency, is the depressed hero of this uneven hard-boiled melodrama--which begins when tycoon Morris Grumbach, a recent widower, hangs himself in a hotel room. . .just after putting in a bizarre phone-call to shamus Paine. Why did Grumbach commit suicide? (Or did he?) Why does one of his three daughters then follow suit? And What's the meaning of the six enigmatic snapshots left for Paine by two dead Grumbachs? Paine identifies some of the men in the photos, doggedly sleuths, gets shot at and beaten up--and keeps finding more dead bodies (both hem-and suicides) along the way. Meanwhile, though impotent with his estranged wife, he begins a steamy affair with the middle Grumbach daughter, and, in flashbacks, he suffers through his luridly miserable past, including: his gay, psychotic uncle; his father's homicidal rage; his own accidental killing (while a cop) of an innocent teen-ager. Sarrantonio shows a basic gift for lean, mean storytelling here. The Big Family Secret at the heart of the mystery, while far-fetched, has some creepy clout in the Ross Macdonald-gothic manner. But the derivative plot is overstuffed with corpses and coincidence, the prose often strains for Hemingway-ish eloquence; and Paine remains only half-persuasive in the clichÇd role of shamus as past-haunted, compulsive truth-seeker.