Thanks to his matchmaking mom, Brian Kayne--an investigator in the Paloma County, California, D.A.'s office--finds himself attending Joanna Starrett's gallery show, where some of the poems she's illustrated remind him of an unsolved missing mother-daughter case. Could Joanna's collaborator, ``Sam Fox,'' have known the women, maybe even murdered them? Though Joanna's never actually met Sam, she's carried on a long, romantic correspondence with him and doubts that her sensitive pen pal is capable of murder. Ben disagrees, however, and sets out to prove a connection. Before long, he's shot at, almost crushed by a boulder, and then starts finding remnants of human bone in brush-fire ashes. Meanwhile, Joanna stakes out Sam's p.o. box, where she is soon spotted and put next on the killer's death list.... If you can overlook the hapless plot of this based-on-several- coincidences first novel, the characters and offbeat tone are rather endearing--particularly with regard to Brian, his cat Mabel, and his office cohort ``Mother'' Theresa.