An unsolved murder pulls layabout painter Ventry--ex-cop, ex-photographer, ex-son to his impossible father--back from upstate Columbia County to the Big Apple in this tangled debut. Ventry senior, a notorious gossip-columnist, wants his son to take up his blueblooded friend India Barrett's request--which is to reopen the question of who tortured and killed her painter husband Peter shortly after his visit from Mrs. Barrett's vanished companion, Australian scalawag Cyril Hart. There's no lack of suspects: the old man points Ventry toward Hart's very available sister Moira, and Mrs. Barrett mentions shady antique-dealer Valentine Royal, charismatic foundation-head Morgan Kavanaugh, and Ventry's old teacher Jack Giresse. With all these leads, Ventry goes after the killer by bedding Moira, asking his father to help him infiltrate Val Royal's art-smuggling ring, and puzzling over why Peter Barrett's talent ebbed and flowed so irregularly. The background--congressional bribery during WW II, postwar American painting, Vinee Ventry's family problems--is resonant but overlarded; long before the denouement, everybody is so obviously guilty of crimes and misdemeanors that questions of individual guilt lose their punch. Some good clues and deep feelings, though Ventry himself is a little too (autobiographically?) intense. Stay tuned for the sequel.