Former San Francisco cop Susan Wren, now a widow and the police chief in tiny, insular Hampstead, Kansas, discovers that Lynnelle--the poor waif found dead in the woods--thought local college math professor Carena Egersund was the birth-mother who relinquished her years before. Did Carena kill her to keep her silent? Carena is clearly worried about something--perhaps her sister Caitlin's latest descent into schizzy hallucinations. Or her recent brouhaha with college vice-chancellor Audrey Kalazar, whose daughter was using Lynnelle's place to meet her boyfriend. Then Audrey disappears; her secretary stews--and tells a lie or two--and her writer-husband admits to an affair. Are the two deaths connected? Susan and Officer Parkhurst sort through a passel of red herrings and emerge with...the least likely suspect. Plot heavy, like The Winter Widow (1992), but salvaged by interesting characters. Weir hasn't quite got the hang of a bang-up ending, and she's surely not one to turn to for a delicious turn- of-phrase. Overall: fairly standard stuff.