An improbably peopled first novel in which the Lincoln Prairie, Illinois, detective team of Marti MacAlister (black/widowed, with two kids/intuitive) and her male partner, Vik Jessenovik (white/gruff/factual), try to solve the murder of an often hospitalized (schizophrenia) young woman, Dorsey, at the Cramer Hotel, a flophouse for social misfits. Then Dorsey's loony neighbor down the hall is killed, and the night desk clerk as well, and indications are that the killer is after the eyewitnesses--a pair of thieving but lovable street kids. Will Marti and Vik find the ``little people'' before the killer does? Despite being overworked, overtired, and lied to by the few people in Dorsey's past they manage to trace, the two converge on the kids just in time to rescue them for Christmas and tie in Dorsey's murder with that of her musician boyfriend back in Vietnam days. Far-fetched and sluggish.