Hard-boiled private detective Joe Binney of N.Y.C. is deaf--not born deaf, but deaf ever since a Korean War underwater-mining accident--and Livingston's curt, wry treatment of narrator Joe's disability turns this otherwise routine mystery debut into a modest winner. The case is far from exciting: hired to get the divorce goods on Mrs. Iris Penton, Joe finds her dead in her pool--apparently from a drug overdose; and when Joe investigates Iris' connections in rock-music and drug-dealing, he gets roughed up, tracks down his attackers, finds another body or two, and winds up in an upstate shoot-out/showdown with the killer. Still, however hackneyed the plot here (there's also Joe's doomed romance with a singing star), Joe's rueful, brisk narration maintains a steady level of interest--especially when he's filling in his background or sharing details of how he copes without hearing. Middling mystery, then, but fair action, strong dialogue--and a promising new detective hero whose difference comes across as more than just a gimmick.