By a newspaperman who has authored a book on running, this first mystery stars a newspaperman who does a lot of exactly that. Martin Grant, facing midlife reevaluation and divorce in frosty Iowa, slides south to Bananaville (Florida?), where a job as reporter on the metro beat and a shot at the ``big story'' of his dreams await him. A morally pure city-councilman named Rudolph Reed has been dead a month; Martin's hefty, hearty editor, Peter ``Elmer'' Fudd, thinks it might have been murder or that, at least, a look-see might sell papers. The subsequent interviews that Martin fits in between runs introduce him to Reed's reclusive wife and dysfunctional children, politicos with business secrets, an estranged cousin with shady local connections, and a neighborhood beauty who sells advertising, plays piano, and cares for twins but still has plenty of time for spiritually satisfying sex with our detective. Not surprisingly, it turns out that there are some nasty secrets hidden beneath Bananaville's placid surface, and that some of the locals wouldn't mind killing to keep them there. Lilliefors's derivative plot is delivered in a tone combining eccentricity with mystical musings (``No longer are we . . . much interested in the language of the spirit'') and offering enough citrus-and-surf imagery to choke a gator. This deliberately peculiar debut is open-ended enough for a sequel or two, but peculiar can strain hard to become the same as interesting.