As in Unholy Matrimony (1986), The French Quarter Killers (1987), and Blood Warning (1989), here again Dillman draws on his personal experiences as a member of the New Orleans homicide squad--this time, producing a hard-hitting, though ultimately less-than-satisfying, account of the 1978 murder of a wealthy Florida anesthesiologist weekending in New Orleans. When Mark Sheppard fails to show up for an operation at St. Petersburg's St. Anthony's Hospital, friends and acquaintances become alarmed; Sheppard was, they insist, ""extraordinarily reliable, punctual to a fault, never late."" They hire a p.i., who flies to the Crescent City, contacts the New Orleans Police Department, and sets an investigation, headed by Dillman, in motion. It soon comes out that Sheppard is a resolutely closeted gay and that his frequent visits to the French Quarter were for the purpose of picking up the young black males he preferred. Dillman focuses his attention on three New Orleans pool-playing acquaintances of Sheppard, including a mysterious ""Candy."" While examining Sheppard's palatial Florida home, the detective comes across the doctor's steamy diary, in which one John Smith is frequently mentioned. A police check reveals that Smith is the elusive ""Candy."" Then, when Sheppard's strangled body is found in a ditch outside the city, things move rapidly. Smith is picked up and ""confesses"" to having witnessed the doctor's murder by two friends, though he disclaims any part in the crime. Internal evidence indicates, however, that ""Candy"" himself was responsible. It is when Smith is put on trial that the narrative's tension slackens somewhat. A crack court-appointed lawyer is able to create enough doubt in the minds of two juries for mistrials to be declared and for a third jury to acquit. Readers also may find the evidence against Smith somewhat confused (and confusing), though Dillman works hard to tie up the loose ends. A tawdry tale told with a crackling sense of immediacy, though marred slightly by the ending.