English private-eye Mark Savage (Dead for a Ducat, etc.), formerly a movie/theater heartthrob, goes to Stratford-on-Avon to see his old pal Sir Gerald Grantley star in King Lear. But, though the opening night is a triumph for Sir G., the next day brings tragedy: the famed actor plunges to his death from a tower on his nearby estate. Suicide, accident, or murder? That's the question for Savage as he uncovers motive after motive, secret after secret. Gerald, it seems, had at least two killings in his past (one long ago, one recent), plus an illegitimate child (now grown-up and bitter). Furthermore, Sir G. was a terminally ill blackmail victim at the time of his death--which complicates things, as does his longstanding feud with the ugly, nasty young gay director of the Lear production. So there'll be long explanations--as well as a bit more bloodshed--before Savage sorts it all out. Some of the backstage atmosphere here--Savage rekindles an old show-biz flame as he sleuths--is brightly, authentically detailed. But, unlike Payne's better efforts, this one is undernourished and over-plotted. And, perhaps more important, Savage himself--narcissitic, unpleasantly preening, dabbling in homosexual seduction (for professional purposes only)--is a much less engaging presence than usual.