Lindsey's recurrent hero, Stuart Haydon, is the Hamlet of homicide detectives, a wealthy cop whose intense brooding turns the crimes he investigates into mirrors that illuminate his own saturnine psyche. Thus in this excellent and absorbing novel, as in A Cold Mind (1983), Heat From Another Sun (1984), and Spiral (1986), Lindsey early on dispenses with most of the external mystery--as Haydon is stalked by a secret from his father's past--to plunge into an excavation of the detective's place in a web of familial guilt and madness. Lindsey reveals his villain on page one: Mexican anthropologist Saturnino Barcena, flying from Mexico City to Houston because ""nothing less than the other man's death would assuage the agony he had endured."" That agony is as yet undefined; the other man is Haydon, who sits in the darkened library of his ancestral home pondering a series of photos sent to him: portraits of his father as a young man; of a beautiful woman; of himself with a bullet to the brain penned in. As Haydon muses, quarrels with his wife, and learns from ancient maid Gabriela that the beauty is Amaranta, a prenuptial mistress of his father's, Barcena kills a sordid p.i. he's hired to track down Haydon. That murder pinpoints Barcena as the photo-sender and propels Haydon to Mexico City, where amidst teeming slums and glittering mansions he pursues his father's hidden past and Barcena's tortured present. Scattered passages of traditional action--the shocking slaughter by Barcena of a lover, a less effective car-chase--intercut moody revelations as Haydon meets his father's old friends and Amaranta herself, now senile, and feels himself fully his father's son as he falls for Amaranta's exotic daughter, Isabel. Barcena is her half-brother; is he Haydon's as well, wishing to kill the cop because he sees in him the father who abandoned him? A bloody ending with one big twist provides the answer--and leaves Haydon sadder but wiser. More melodrama than thriller, this novel compels--despite occasional portentous dialogue (e.g., Isabel speaking of Barcena's madness as ""riding the bony back of the nightmare right out of its dream and into reality"")--and compares with the work of Ross Macdonald in its sensitive exploration within a crime format of the family ties that scar: prime Lindsey, his best since his first.