Despite a failed effort to link its subject to a larger picture of greedy national yuppieism, this murder story builds and grips like a novel woven by James M. Cain and Theodore Dreiser. The story runs a course whose ironies are well captured by Sharkey (Death Sentence, 1990--not reviewed). This is a tale of a pathetically flawed man whose veneer of charm hid an emptiness that even his own family could not see and that at last drove him into moral eclipse. Without hope of college, tall, handsome Charles Stuart attended vocational technical school in Revere, Mass., learning restaurant skills, and worked in pizza shops while dreaming of his place in the sun as a gracious restaurateur. A little later, he landed a job turning hamburgers at the Driftwood, where he told white lies about losing his football scholarship to Brown because of a leg injury. Soon he met, and later married, brilliant Carol DiMaitis, an honor student he helped steer into graduate school for tax law. Meanwhile, by vast luck, he landed a job with some furriers; he proved so skilled a salesman that his income soon rose from $40,000 to $130,000 a year. Carol was stunned by his rise, since even with her law degree she could not hope to rise above $40,000 yearly. At 30, Carol wanted a baby, got pregnant, refused to abort. Charles steeped her in insurance, shot her to death in his car on a dark Boston street, wounded himself, called for the police. A TV crew came and got incredible footage. In the hospital, Charles described a black assailant and the police, amid huge public outcry, found just the patsy, whom Charles later ID'd in a lineup. How Charles screwed up and why he jumped to his death in a freezing river forms the rest of the story. Certainly not perfect, but riveting all the same.