A psychologist hunts the killer of a psychologist when Dr. Alex Delaware returns after a hiatus that perhaps should have extended beyond one book (Billy Straight, 1999). It’s just that Alex seems so detached now, so distanced. Oh, sure, when LAPD Det. Milo Sturgis summons him, he responds the way a good consulting psychologist should, but gone is that joy of sleuthing once his hallmark (The Clinic, 1997, etc.). On the one hand, who could love visiting the Starkweather State Hospital for the Criminally Insane? On the other, reclusive, self- involved Dr. Claire Argent was a Starkweather staff psychologist until someone slit her throat and cut her eyes out, so it’s there, Sturgis feels, the investigation should begin. Not that he likes any of the inmates for his perp. They all have ironclad alibis, since what Starkweather is famous for is secure incarceration. Once inmates get locked up, locked up they stay, and it happens that Dr. Argent was nowhere near the hospital when she met her gory end. Okay, but how, Alex wonders, do you ignore mass murderer Ardis Peake? A nonfunctional psychotic who almost never leaves his room, almost never speaks, but who has, in fact, suddenly spoken: “Dr. A. Bad eyes in a box——words supposedly muttered the day before Claire Argent was mutilated. Moreover, Alex discovers, there were connections between monstrous Ardis and quiet Claire that go way back. And so, a la Ross Macdonald, the search is launched, and like Lew Archer and a bevy of wannabes, Alex finds his new mysteries shrouded by old ones. Because he’s so much the observer here, Alex amounts to a nonplayer. And no one else in the cast has substance enough to make a long book seem shorter.