Hugh Storms--WW II vet, 50-ish divorced, Buffalo attorney--is pushed over the edge into full-fledged midlife crisis when his flaky son Michael, 22, is murdered in New York City. . .with no sign (three months later) of the unknown killer being brought to justice. So, amid lugubrious reminiscences and intimations of mortality, Hugh heads for late-1970s Manhattan--a ""father-cum-lawyer-cum-Sam Spade"" determined to find the murderer while learning The Whole Truth about druggy yet endearing Michael. There are visits to Michael's Greenwich Village landlady (an earth-mother bookseller), to one of his several ex-girlfriends (an addict), to some hedonistic Village haunts. What Hugh learns, not very surprisingly, is that Michael was more villain than victim--a cool drug-dealer with ruthless associates, a sexy creep who apparently enjoyed the corruption of relatively innocent adolescents (one of whom became an OD fatality). Nonetheless, Hugh sleuths on doggedly; he gets seriously roughed up by Michael's former business partners; he realizes that the cop on the case has been withholding crucial information. And finally, after the trail leads to Poughkeepsie, the killer--already, ironically, punished--is revealed: ""the war was over,"" but Hugh returns to Buffalo still feeling burdened, ""the survivor of a defrauded and defrauding generation."" Caputi, author of an engaging first novel (Loving Erie, 1974), works hard at investing a familiar scenario with thematic resonance (the generation gap, paternal passions, the corrupting city) and textured characterization; there's some somber charm in Hugh's relationship with the bookseller-landlady and her sullen teenage son. More often, however, the results are maudlin, shrill--whether evoking Hugh's grief (""Break, heart! Break, you rubbery son-of-a-bitch!"") or New York decadence (""Foul breath and diseased loins""). So this remains an earnest, oddly dated, marginally involving hybrid--fair-to-middling as mystery, largely hollow as a grieving father's soul-journey.