Another welcome venture from the ever-dependable Wilhelm (Crazy Time, etc.): here, a malfunctioning alien probe hides out on Earth in abandoned hotels, driving people insane; the--thing?--can be driven forth by lire, but soon takes root elsewhere, and the epidemic of insanity recurs. Restauranteur Carson Danvers inspects an empty hotel, accompanied by his wife Elinor, son Gary, and insurance-adjustor John Loesser. Suddenly, Carson is staggered by a blinding headache and a feeling of mental cobwebs; inexplicably, Gary seizes a gun, shoots Elinor dead, and severely wounds Carson; Loesser vanishes utterly. Later, Carson awakens only to find that the hospital staff think he's Loesser. In a fit of revenge, Carson burns down the hotel, then takes over Loesser's life. He soon discovers that the malign influence from the burned hotel has taken up residence in another empty hotel, its presence marked by another inexplicable outbreak of mass insanity. Again Carson bums the building; again the thing, whatever it is, moves on. . . Eventually, a retired fire-investigator and Carson will join forces to track down and destroy what they now suspect to be a damaged alien probe. Intriguing, well-handled work with a hard, sharp edge.