Once, when Lewis Cole was a numbers-cruncher for the Department of Defense out on his annual field training stint in the Nevada desert, all his companions were killed--and so was he, almost--by a secret Defense project. No wonder, then, that he's ready to believe the worst when teenager Lynn Germano is found hanging in her apartment in his sleepy hamlet of Tyler Beach, New Hampshire. Two other murders and the disappearance of Tyler first lady Alice Crenshaw rapidly confirm Lewis's suspicion that something stinks in Tyler; but when his stinkiest suspect, Lynn's lowlife landlord Oliver Mailloux, turns out to be one of the victims, he's forced to look deeper, into the recent discovery of a 40-year-old skeleton that all but the dumbest readers have had their eye on from chapter one. Lewis, who talks a lot about whether or not he's carrying (and which weapon), seems almost too glum for the town's routine secrets, which generate more moody atmosphere--the scenes between Lewis and his sort-of friend Felix Tinios, a local mobster, are especially anticlimactic--than plot. A sour but otherwise unremarkable debut.