In Gilbert's debut, characters are lifted whole from the Nero Wolfe canon--lacking only their style, grace, humor, and smarts. While Carter ""Win"" Winfield, former Seretary of State, stays at home reading massive history volumes and pontificating on dictionary meanings, his assistant Matt Doyle's legwork turns up San Diego's newest neighborhood crime threat: the ""carnation"" cat burglar, who takes nothing of importance but leaves a few petals as his calling card. Deducing a red herring, Win predicts a murder will follow, and, on cue, Martha Neal Herbert, president of Neal Pharmaceuticals, is soon dispatched by a blow to the base of her skull. Whodunit? Second husband Howard, the gigolo, who craved merging the company for megabucks? Former lover Don, the father of her institutionalized son? The Nolte Brothers, to intimidate a gambler into settling up? Various and sundry disgruntled company employees? Only two people are above reproach: Martha's ever loyal, true-blue toady, the very ugly Helga; and daughter Susan, who hires Win to find out what happened. Alas, Susan's killed before he calls everyone into his library for the explanation--but not to worry: savvy readers will have guessed the identity of the culprit midway through. The plotting is implausible; Matt's (supposedly) raffish dialogue is merely sophomoric; and the lengthy pharmaceutical-ethics diatribe hardly fresh material. As Nero Wolfe himself might say: ""pfui.