Widowed Claire Malloy and teen-aged daughter Caron live in the college town of Farberville, where Claire runs a bookshop. Her friend Mildred Twiller, wife of English professor Douglas, is also Azalea Twilight, writer of torrid best-selling romances. For the latest of these, Professor of Passion, Mildred has arranged a party at the bookshop. An uninvited guest, threatening a libel suit, is Maggie Holland, the college's leading feminist, who reads excerpts from the book describing shameful episodes in the lives of thinly disguised members of the faculty, Claire's late husband among them. Then, Mildred flees the party and is found strangled some hours later by Maggie's acolyte, Sheila Belinski. Lieutenant Peter Rosen quickly discovers the secret in Mildred's life, is baffled by a second murder, but manages to save nosy Claire from becoming victim number three. The author's style is conversational and airy, full of rue and wry. It manages to keep the story afloat despite a clumsy, unconvincing plot. So, overall: a promising debut--and there may be better cases ahead for this talented writer.