The author this time deserts her usual San Francisco lawyer-sleuth Rebecca Schwartz (Tourist Trap, 1986; etc.) for ex-reporter/writer/unlicensed P.I. Paul McDonald and what is practically a treatise on the life and works of Mark Twain. Paul, just moved into new quarters with artist girlfriend Sardis Kincannon, is visited by rich, neurotic old friend Booker Kessler, whose hobby is burglary. Booker has almost inadvertently stolen what appears to be the original, handwritten manuscript of Huckleberry Finn from the closet of stewardess Beverly Alexander, roommate of a Japanese girl Booker's father is dating. Paul, hired by Booker to find out if the manuscript is genuine, quickly discovers that Beverly has been murdered--and that's for starters. Before it's over our hero has, among other things, flown to Virginia City and L.A., uncovered a 10-year-old killing, met crooked financier-collector Russell Kittrell, smarmy book dealer Rich Debay and his bitter clerk, author Jenny Swenson; has been seduced by best-selling writer Pamela Temby and beaten up by her lesbian daughter; has lost and recovered the manuscript, tracked and suitably rewarded its true owner, and nailed a double murderer. There might have been a nifty story in all this, but the dizzying leaps of plot, relentlessly colorful characters and overdose of Twain lore lead only to weary confusion and eventual ennui. Smith has worked less hard for better results in her other recent works.