The author's locale remains the town of Port Silva in northern California (The Cruel Mother, 1990, etc.), with the focus this time on Charlotte Birdsong, piano teacher, first-class cook, and single mother of 13-year-old Petey. Their house, willed to Petey by his grandmother, is on a historic little street called Finn Lane. John Leino, owner of much of the property there, has died. His widow wants to sell the whole area to developers and has sent smooth lawyer Hal Michaelson to negotiate deals with those who own their houses. But the area's a hotbed of environmental causes, and Charlotte's policeman tenant (and possible love interest) Val Kuisma is plagued besides with the disappearance of developer Ed Boylan, last seen on a hard-drinking tour of local bars. Meanwhile, Petey's father--a has-been actor with a nose for the main chance--makes a sudden appearance; the arrival of a quartet of nomadic hippies complicates matters further, as violence escalates on Finn Lane and Michaelson disappears. A jumble of plotlines, characters, and corpses dilutes the thrust of a moderately engrossing puzzle--one much enhanced by its strong evocation of a special place.