Those sleuthing San Francisco Sisters, Mary Helen and Eileen, of Mount St. Francis College (Death Goes on Retreat, 1995, etc.), are at it again--even though the fierce disapproval of Police Inspector Dennis Gallagher is seconded by warnings from the sisters' good friend and Gallagher's partner Kate Murphy. Kate's policeman husband Jack has been critically injured in a shoot-out with a rapist-murderer in the Sea Cliff area. The latest victim of the rapist, who got away, was Gemma Burke, Mary Helen's longtime friend and a generous donor to the college. With the appearance of Tilly Greenwood, an elderly Sea Cliff woman who dotes on the sullen, ne'er-do-well son who lives in her basement, the reader is made aware early on of the man's probable identity. There's another family disaster looming, just down the street, in the shabby home of obese Angelica Bowers, who works in the college library and lives with her fiendish, bedridden mother as well as with the two huge dogs who guard her. Sister Mary Helen's innocent attempt at prodding Angelica into a program of self-improvement blows up into a weird denouement that brings all the story's elements together More a chronicle of dysfunctional family relationships than a detective puzzle, but with enough chilling suspense, even so, to hold the reader's interest to the finish. One of the author's better efforts.