A moody change of pace after Yeager's first two novels, which starred underemployed New York actress Vic Bowering (Eviction by Death, 1993, etc.). The battle between painter Elizabeth Will's cantankerous father, Frank (a commercial fisherman), and Dovekey Beach (N.H.) selectman Al Jenness, who wants to introduce legalized gambling and prostitution to the coastal community, takes a nasty turn when Frank hauls in one of his lobster pots and finds it filled with Al's head, followed by the rest of him. The apparent cause of death: not drowning, but a cerebral hemorrhage occasioned by Al's having his head potted. The suspects: preservationist Dr. Charles MacKay of the Eternal Sea Group; Rev. Garrett Selby, head of the Children of Deity; Selby's kid brother Eli, a reclusive ex- con; and of course Frank Will, who in any other story would be booked and sweated. (The tip-off that things will be different this time is that Elizabeth's best friend, Ginny Philbrick, is the chief of police.) Instead of developing the obvious dramatic conflicts in group scenes between preservationists and developers, the innocent and the guilty, Yeager goes in for brief, atmospheric vignettes that keep all the characters at arm's length while Elizabeth and her sister Avis Donigian search for Will family records in which they're convinced the solution is buried. The resulting intimate mosaic of eccentric individuals is offbeat but inert--certainly no compensation for Vic Bowering's sorely missed panache and pizzazz.