A disappointment from the newest addition to Grand Master ranks of the Mystery Writers of America--a gimmick-based ""study"" of a town's reaction to teen-ager Sally Anders' rape/murder while babysitting. When a drifter's alibi proves impeccable (he was locked up in another town that night), the small-minded townspeople, including members of the police commission, look for scapegoats. First choice: an eccentric war veteran (who knows what these ""mental cases"" are capable of?), who is soon railroaded into a mental hospital. Next: the high-school valedictorian--son of the black principal--who knew Sally as a kid (and was probably crazy with lust for her). Then: the minister, who supposedly made contact with her during choir practice (the rumors lead to discovery of his homosexuality and his eventual, despairing, suicide). And so it goes, from rumor to innuendo, until almost everyone in town is smeared and accused, their lives uprooted (the principal, for example, quits, furious at the latent-turned-active racism). But, finally, Sally's secret romance comes to light; a wife's disappearance is looked into; and a fancier of young girls is caught. The pseudo-sociological format grates and is hardly compensated for in the denouement. A simplistic slog from an author who has done better (Last Seen Wearing).