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Nick Magaracz, unemployed private-eye, can hardly say no when his wife's cousin Charlie--supervising accountant for New Jersey's Mental Rehabilitation Division--asks him to track down 375 small checks, apparently stolen from the Mental Rehab headquarters in Trenton. So, posing as an accountant, Nick starts some low-key sleuthing and low-profile eavesdropping among the office workers--a listless crowd that includes a sexpot secretary, a love-starved clerk, several chirpy matrons, and (the chief suspect) a weasely Don Juan of a mail-boy. Meanwhile, however, over at the Boardwalk View Rest Home for the Disturbed Elderly in Atlantic City, those 375 never-mailed checks--$9000 worth of allowance funds for patients--are being sorely missed. . .by the druggy asylum-manager who's been stealing the money from the oblivious inmates on a regular basis! In fact, the manager's thuggish, psychotic sons regard the missing $9000 as their money. And they're soon on their way to Trenton to track down the stolen checks--a quest that leads to three blithe murders (two innocent bystanders, one guilty mail-boy) before a bloody, black-comic finale in the elevator at the Mental Rehab building. First-novelist Gallison offers no mystery and only a flicker or two of action in her slight (128 pp.) serving of dark, deadpan farce. (Contrary to the fatuous, ill-informed catalogue copy, this downbeat comedy is neither ""a hilarious parody"" nor ""a wacky send-up of the traditional potboiler detective novel."") But, for readers with a taste for grimly ironic amusement, there's sharp, quick diversion here--with funny/sad character sketches, matter-of-fact ghastliness, and shrewd evocation of the drab, cozy state-office milieu.

Pub Date: April 2nd, 1986
Publisher: Little, Brown