Lots of lecturing about the Hollywood Ten and CIA-inspired psychosurgery, fair period atmosphere, very little detection--in a 1949 case for hard-boiled sleuth Riley Kovachs, who reluctantly takes over when fellow shamus Jake Diltz gets killed. Jake's case: investigating rumors that institutionalized actress Frances Farmer is scheduled for a fiendish lobotomy. The only clue: that blacklisted Dalton Trumbo knows something about it. So Kovachs, occasionally roughed up, searches--at tedious length--for the hiding-out Trumbo, who steers him to some info on the new trends in psychosurgery (with CIA/conspiracy overtones). And eventually Kovachs is getting himself admitted to the asylum where Frances Farmer is incarcerated--in an ultimately vain attempt to rescue her from ""the father of American lobotomy."" Despite Kovachs' annoying musings on Raymond Chandler throughout: an ungainly attempt to present iffy exposÃ‰ material (cf. William Arnold's unconvincing Shadowland, 1978) in detective-story form.