When quintessential California socialite Pepper Livingston takes time off from her breakneck schedule (Sunshine House, the Save Our Hills Coalition, etc.) to get strangled, the news causes scarcely a ripple among her neighbors in trendy Walnut Hills. Despite Kate Austen's demure protests to the contrary (``Pepper Livingston was certainly the last person you'd ever expect to go and get herself killed''), life goes on as placidly as before. The officer who first questions Kate seems less interested in Pepper's murder than in Kate's thriving ficus; the grieving widower brings his daughter over to Kate's house to play and reminisce comfortably about Pepper over a couple of quiet scotches; the undifferentiated gossips at the Guild Wine Festival trade the most innocuous rumors about alternatives to the official drug-related robbery theory. The only excitement comes when Kate, abandoned by a flighty husband who's taken off for Europe in hopes of finding himself, falls for Michael Stone, the hard-bunned homicide lieutenant in charge of the case. Even in the throes of suburban passion, though, newcomer Kate still chooses dresses and makeup as carefully as ever, and she manages to spot the murderer without seriously disrupting her day care arrangements. A West Coast Compromising Positions, with omelettes, Chardonnay, and mild innuendo substituting for detection, and nary a mean bone in its well-preserved body.