Has all-purpose misanthrope Aaron Asherfeld been mellowing too long in the California sun? The meanest detective this side of Inspector Dover gives a dollar to a panhandler, fails to kick a particularly provoking police dog (a German shepherd named Officer Reinhardt), and ventures scarcely an anti-ethnic syllable during his third case (Less Than Meets the Eye, 1994, etc.). Maybe he's subdued by the improbable beauty of the person he's looking for: receptionist Alicia Tamaroff, whom financial planners Marvin Plumbeck and Eddie Ergenweiler have installed on San Francisco's Russian Hill as the kept woman they share with a lesser associate who gets only Fridays. And maybe he's thrown off his stride by the sheer loopyness of the mistress who's gone AWOL and filed a harassment suit. As Asherfeld waffles between interviewing Alicia's therapist (whose shingle ought to read Practice Restricted to Bimbos), tracking down Alicia's Russian connections, and worrying about a second, apparently unrelated lawsuit Marvin and Eddie have to deal with, each new subplot is ripe with promise. But the book, whose ramshackle plot seems to have been cobbled together by a committee, never ties them all together, and it's something of a miracle when Asherfeld finally rings down the curtain. The biggest disappointment, though, is Asherfeld's suspiciously equable comportment throughout. What's he got to be so happy about, anyway?