The day before she dies, brilliant, randy Atlas Entertainment corporate counsel Molly Dalton phones her paleoanthropologist husband, Will--estranged from her since he returned early from an African trip to find her deeply immersed in the delights of Atlas president Kosta Gounaris--to ask for a meeting about a computer file she's found that ties Atlas's assets to the Mob. Stuck in traffic on the Bay Bridge, Will arrives too late for their dinner date and misses his chance to get executed along with her. Fifteen months later, as grieving Will marks his return from Africa to Berkeley by giving a lecture on violence and evolution, Lt. Dante Stagnoro, head of San Francisco's organized crime task force, reviews the series of killings that proceeded from Molly to a crooked cop, a druglord, a mob lawyer, and so on. The killer, identifying himself as Raptor, repeatedly phones Stagnoro to taunt him and at one point leaves a message pinned to his chest as he sleeps; the lieutenant is determined not to let Will become Raptor's final victim. The interplay between killer and cop has been done much better before, and the mystery fizzles like a damp firecracker, but the interleaving of the story with excerpts from Will's lecture and Raptor's confession shows just how magnificently ambitious this failure is. Assassination as evolution? Only the callowest of first- timers--or an old pro as canny as Gores (Dead Man, 1993, etc.)- -would ever have the brass to root an otherwise unmemorable tale in such a dazzling conceit.