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Even when Fort Worth cop Deb Ralston (The Day That Dusty Died, p. 100, etc.) takes her family on vacation in Salt Lake City, where her son Hal is beginning work at the Missionary Training Center, she can't shake the cloud over her head. Deb and her husband, Hal, both limping from recent accidents, end up at a bed-and-breakfast whose hostess, Georgina Grafton, has just lost her father (death) and her husband, Cully (tossed out for obscure reasons, though he's a bully and a drinker). Georgina's sister Alexandra Howe, who's suffered since childhood -- when her mother was murdered and her late father driven to bankruptcy -- from multiple personality disorder, is a merciless pest right up to the moment Deb's son Hal finds her with her head bashed in, in a nearby sculpture garden. Nobody knows, or apparently much cares, in which of her personalities Alexandra was killed, and the people most likely to shed light on her death soon become the next victims. When Deb, inevitably pulled into the investigation, gets her own clunk on the head, she ends up, unlike every other fictional detective on record, in the hospital with a serious concussion. Even her dog gets sick. If you can make it past the characteristically depressive tone and the characters' wearying habit of explaining themselves at exhaustive length (Deb's excursus on giving cough drops to a pit bull sets a new standard for inconsequence), you'll find as cunning a puzzle as Martin has ever set, filled with clues you'll kick yourself for having overlooked in the underbrush.

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 1994
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: St. Martin's