For a sleepy little Wisconsin town, Oakalla sure sees a lot of mayhem--and local newspaper editor Garth Ryland (The Last Laugh, etc.) is back to narrate and sleuth his way through another low-key tangle of past/present crime. Two local women--matron Betty Pierson and high-school senior Frieda Whitlock--have died mysteriously in Mitchell's Woods, a wild tract outside of town; they seem to have been mauled by a wolf, or a coyote, or a ""coy-dog"". . .or something--though human foul-play can't be ruled out. Meanwhile, however, Garth gets more interested in the human skull that just turned tip in Phillippee's Pond. Could it belong to lawyer Walter Lawrence, who disappeared 17 years ago, leaving a plucky deserted wife, an oddly pleased law-partner. . .and $50,000 unaccounted for? It could indeed. So Garth goes looking into bygone love-triangles, gets involved in a brand-new one, and unmasks two killers (one forgivable, one not) before the doublemystery gets sorted out. Mildly far-fetched in a backwoods-gothic way, and more lugubrious than previous Ryland outings--but absorbing overall, with a curious, varied cast (from shaggy hermits to slick lawyers) of wary small-town types.