A double murder among the people who congregate in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park catches the eye of Inspector Kate Martinelli (A Grave Talent, 1993), especially since the surviving members of the homeless community, headed by a mysterious leader calling himself Brother Erasmus, cremate the first victim, a dog named Theophilus, and try to do the same three weeks later to Theophilus's owner, John. Neither Kate nor her down-to-earth partner, Al Hawkin, can find out much more about John--or, for that matter, about Erasmus, who speaks only in variously responsive quotations from Shakespeare, Gilbert and Sullivan, and the Bible, and is therefore something of a trial in conversation. (Sample exchange at breakfast: ``Omelette or Chinese?'' ``O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you.'') Realizing that Erasmus styles himself a Holy Fool, Kate digs for more information on this '60s-style spiritual movement. Her research brings her unexpectedly up against somebody who knew Erasmus when he had a job, a family, and a voice of his own, but these discoveries still don't explain who killed John or why--a mystery that will be solved only when Kate succeeds in getting Erasmus to talk to her. The effort to break Erasmus down is much more interesting than his final revelations. King's calculated disdain for the received conventions of the detective story, though, only confirms her status as one of the most original talents to emerge in the '90s.