Why would inoffensive Irene March of the Columbia Clipping Service have gone AWOL just a few days after her triumphant TV stint on Jeopardy! left her $20,000 richer? That's what her fellow clippers at Columbia want Jane da Silva, Seattle's pro bono sleuth of last resort (A Hopeless Case, 1992), to find out, and it isn't long before Jane has a theory: Irene was taking advantage of her nose for news to run a little petty blackmail on the side, and one of her victims (the charter fisherman arrested for soliciting? the mother who moves from town to town organizing fund-raisers for her ``critically ill'' daughter? the state senator's wife carrying on with a much younger apple-orchard heir?) may have learned enough about her to track her down. Meantime, though, Jane's inquiries have taken her over the mountains to Coulee City and Pateros, where she meets the apple-grower in question, sexy sometime country singer Jack Lawson, and falls into his arms. Will she be able to keep cool enough to solve the mystery of Irene's disappearance- -oops, Irene's murder--ahead of the police and to satisfy the demanding board of the Foundation for Righting Wrongs so that they'll approve her funding? Well, no. Jane and her story are as likeable as ever, but the mystery is a muddle of suspicious behavior, broken alibis, and enough unanswered questions (e.g., what does all this have to do with Irene?) to keep a reference librarian--or a clipping service- -busy for years. No wonder Jane's foundation won't pay her off.