As in the author's debut novel (The Jack the Ripper Walking Tour Murder, 1986), an undermotivated lunatic is up to no good. The setting this time is the distinguished Alumni Club in Manhattan. It's the temporary home of history-professor/true-crime buff Paul Prye and art-historian wife Alice, at the invitation of member Rodney Baker, until their Westchester house recovers from its recent fire. The reason behind Baker's cordiality, however, is more than friendship. He wants Paul's help in finding the author of some anonymous, obliquely threatening letters--letters written on club stationery, and received by the nearest and dearest of several members. Paul proceeds with discreet questioning of the recipients and important club officials--House chairman Vic Barnes; drama critic Miles Corbett; businessman Vance Parry; ex-Cabinet member John Richardson; admissions committee head Ralp Murray and others--some cooperative, some not. Meanwhile, the menace implicit in the letters is steadily escalating--from house wines doctored with MSG and other nuisances to the actual murders of club femme fatale Melanie Ackerman and Baker himself. Prye makes his pedantic way through it all, endlessly taking notes and theorizing with his Agatha Christie-besotted wife, finally being presented with the culprit on a silver platter. The old true-crime stories recalled by Prye in the course of his investigation are the liveliest bits in this slow-moving, lackluster effort. Less talk, more action and credibility might help the next one.