Darkly droll as ever, the not-very-prolific Dexter is back with another case for Oxford's cynical, rode Inspector Morse and hearty yet shrewd Sergeant Lewis--this time investigating an odd New Year's Eve murder at the bustling, slightly funky Haworth Hotel. Three boozy couples, it seems, retired to their rooms in the hotel's pokey ""annexe"" after the hotel's annual costume party. The next day, however, Mr. Ballard of Annexe 3--still in his Rastafarian costume and makeup--is found dead; ""Mrs. Ballard' is missing; so are the two other couples. And all six were registered under aliases! First, then, Morse and Lewis have to do lots of identifying and tracking-down, separating the relatively innocent fugitives (adulterers, con-artists) from the murder suspects. Eventually the facts do become clearer: the murder victim is a postman; his wife and her lover--whose alibi is airtight--are probably guilty. But, as poor Morse goes through one collapsing theory after another, the modus operandi remains stubbornly elusive. As usual with Dexter, the solution here is more tricky than satisfying. But the uncoiling of the plot, right up to the end, is a witty tease; the minor characters--from a no-nonsense courtesan (Morse nearly succumbs) to a sweetly repentant con-artiste--breeze by memorably. And Morse, winning at least one lady's heart while dispensing curt insults (""Your breath must smell like an old ash-tray,"" he greets one nervously smoking witness), remains a strangely fascinating fellow--one whose popularity is sure to expand with his arrival, this winter, on PBS' Mystery!