Because she wants to find and get revenge on the doctor who cruelly suggested her mother name her Urethra, computer-whiz/poet Talba Wallis (she’s long since changed her name) consults seedy shamus Gene Allred. In no time at all, she’s working undercover for him, gathering information on United Oil Vice-President Russell Fortier. But this second case blows up when (1) Fortier’s wife, New Orleans councilwoman Bebe Fortier, reports him missing; (2) a masked intruder Talba finds in Allred’s office first threatens her, then leaves her with a business card identifying himself as Det. Skip Langdon; (3) the real Skip Langdon—not even a man, but the female veteran of seven previous cases (Crescent City Kill, 1997, etc.)’stops off at Allred’s office and finds him dead; and (4) the masked man’s business card turns out to be the same card Skip left with Bebe Fortier. As anonymous tips to Times-Picayune reporter Jane Storey threaten to shred the Fortiers’ last remnants of privacy, Skip and Talba, working variously at cross-purposes, begin to tie Russ’s disappearance to the fraudulent business practices of the Skinners, his slickly unethical gang of buddies at United Oil. The wealth of crimes and misdemeanors—not to mention the bewildering range of viewpoints—give the case a Dickensian richness familiar to fans of Smith’s ambitiously plotted series. Only the figure of the murderer remains hazy even after the final curtain.