Momentarily abandoning the exuberantly foul Inspector Rosher (A Clutch of Vipers, An Uprush of Mayhem, etc.), Scott offers an ironic crime-and-aftermath tale--short on mystery, long on sardonic close-ups of domestic/comradely relationships. The novel opens with tragedy: the house of restaurateur Tom Glover burns down; his wife and small daughter perish in the blaze--despite a rescue attempt by neighbor-chum Charlie Wood, ex-cop insurance man. So poor, stunned Tom gets plenty of support from the Woods couple (Charlie's wife Sally writes for the local paper), also from their pal Pete Parsons--who just happens to be the cop on the case: it's definitely arson. Then, however, grieving Tom disappears. Has he wandered off in shock? Or is he the victim of some enemy? Well, as the reader soon learns, Tom has been kidnapped by an IRA-ish terrorist--who's sadistically starving him to death. Meanwhile, sleuth Pete is slowly figuring out how greedy Tom (a seemingly law-abiding sort) brought all this mayhem upon himself: for mercenary reasons he was involved in the sale of ammunition to the IRA--but then double-crossed the guerrillas by selling (more lucratively) to the Mafia instead! And, also meanwhile, ambitious newshound Sally makes slightly unethical use of her inside-information (courtesy of Pete)--thus ruining an old friendship. . .and ultimately endangering the life of husband Charlie during the violent showdown with Tom's kidnapper. Scott has a mildly intriguing premise here, sometimes juiced along by his gift for tart dialogue and edgily wry narration. Unfortunately, however, the rather contrived plot lacks the twisty suspense that Ruth Rondell has brought to similar chains-of-incidents--while the downbeat charactersketches (which feature more than a little misogyny) remain more curious than involving.