When nice Sally Robinson, 53, is found dead (bashed in the head with an African fetish figure) in her northern California home, Detective Carl Pedersen has lots of suspects to consider. There's Sally's sullen 20-year-old son, her three ex-husbands, her rivals at the local civic theater group. Furthermore, as the reader knows long before cop Pedersen, Sally and two widowed friends--Zeta Hirsch and Eileen Brande--had recently made contact through the ""Personals"" with a suave, middle-aged marine-biologist named Paul Shapiro. Was Sally romantically involved with charming, enigmatic Paul (despite his ongoing, low-key affair with Eileen)? Was Sally really--as rumored--in the midst of reconciling with hubby #3, a super-handsome art collector? The red herrings are numerous but thin and slippery here. Likewise, Hart's sporadic use of contempo-gothic narrative style--the viewpoint often shifts from Pedersen to tremulous Eileen or dour Zora--can't turn a sketchy, humdrum whodunit into something more frightening or distinctive. And the result, though smoothly and quickly delivered, is a pale, shallow hybrid--with neither the sturdy pleasures of detection nor the emotional grab of genuine psychological suspense Ã¡ la Rendell.