Hired to prove that successful movie-director Walter Cairns married and ditched an Atlanta woman 16 years ago (under a different name), California shamus Jake Asch visits the director on location in Palm Springs and gets the fingerprints needed to prove the double-identity. But just hours later Asch finds Cairns bound-and-strangled, kinky-sex-style. Autoerotic asphyxia? Or murder? Probably the latter, Jake figures, since Cairns turns out to have been an S-M blackmailer, victimizing both of the film's leading ladies (one comeback star, one teen starlet). Furthermore, both the writer and producer on the ill-fated picture have reasons for disposing of the director. And, most interestingly, Cairns is revealed to have concealed an even earlier alternate-identity--one involved with bygone teen-age psycho-crimes. The final revelations don't quite measure up to the red-herring buildup here. Jake's narration--including his bedding of the older actress-sexpot--sometimes slides from hard-boiled classy to mere pulpy crudeness. But, though not top-drawer Lyons (Three with a Bullet, Castles Burning), this has enough of his distinctive snap--bitter humor, ping-ugly dialogue, unglamorous movie-biz atmosphere (with nice digs at the Palm Springs scene here)--to make it a sure, solid bet for series followers.