This second case for Cincinnati's Harry Stoner reaffirms all the charms and strengths shown in The Lime Pit. (p. 248), but though the plot is more smoothly handled this time, it's still not a story worthy of likable Harry's first-rate narration. Hired by a local librarian to figure out who's been defacing pictures of nudes in art-books, Harry soon wonders about a possible connection between the vandalism and the never-solved sex-mutilation murder of a teenage girl. And a little sleuthing produces a major new clue: the murdered girl's drawing of a tattooed forearm (Harry's psychiatric advisor predicted that the psycho would be tattooed), which happens to match up with a youth who took out those art books. So Harry--aided by his new lover, a fledgling feminist shamus--starts tracking this speed-freaked, disturbed kid, finds another mutilated body (the kid's older mistress). . . and then the body of the kid himself, which means that he wasn't the killer after all! And meanwhile the real killer has gotten hold of Harry's girl. . . . Again, Harry comes across with just about the best-modulated hard-boiled shamus voice in the business--downbeat and wry, not mannered or flip; and the very unglamorous milieus are all done up fine. But, instead of a plot that truly resonates (like the best of Ross Macdonald), Valin provides a just-okay mix of undiluted psychopathology, linear legwork, and soft filler (Harry's affair with the feminist, a little-old-lady librarian's obsession with astrology). So: serviceably entertaining almost right through to the end--but Harry still deserves better, and we'll keep hoping that he's going to get it.