Stretching out a bright short-story idea to novella length, first-novelist Milner (a pseudonym) offers a solid, uninspired serving of cheerily nasty black-comedy--more than a little reminiscent of the film Kind Hearts and Coronets. The blithe, cagey killer here is ""deeply evil""--Rear Admiral Peter Farquarson, a Royal Navy man in lusty middle age, now stalled in his military career--and determined to live the good life in his post-Navy decades. Can this be arranged? Yes, indeed--if Farquarson can woo one of the four heiresses to the vast Morrison fortune. . .while disposing of the other three. The first to die is middle-aged Harriet, who just happens to be the ex-wife of Farquarson's much-hated brother Colin, the Laird of Cooriehallie: Farquarson stages some massive vandalism at the Cooriehallie estate, luring both Colin and Harriet into a bomb-trap. (A slimy hired killer helps out--and is Farquarson's next victim.) Then there's Harriet's outdoorsy sister Emily, tricked into drowning herself while fishing. And that leaves two more heiresses: Emily's sister Julie and Emily's 18-year-old daughter Victoria--one of whom will become the last victim, one of whom will become Farquarson's mate (and his equal in casual vileness). Milner attempts to fill out his slight, twisty tale with diversions and digressions: Farquarson's trouble with two vengeful ex-mistresses; his runins with the Navy establishment; his notorious career as a raunchy public speaker; even his bridge-playing (complete with play-by-play). But this remains a serviceable mini-entertainment at best--mildly amusing, more raffish than stylish, never really suspenseful.