A grim third novel from the skillful Matera, who, here, examines noncommunication--with oneself and with everyone else--and its disastrous outcome. Bay Area lawyer Laura DiPalma, on an extended retreat with her cousin/lover Hal, is inveigled into working on a case with a former lover/partner, low-ideals man Sandy Arkelett. They're trying to find out what went wrong with the marriage of chronic depressive Karen Clausen McGuin, who left a tape for her husband, Ted, about committing suicide with the gun he purposefully handed her. Did he want to kill her? Or could she just not live any longer with the deformities caused from previously stabbing at her face and eye with an ice pick? Ted's in-laws hate him because he's black; Karen's despairing nephew hates him because he thinks he killed her; and Ted's eccentric family hates the Clausens for their long-time destruction of Karen and her nephew. Furthermore, Hal and Sandy loathe each other; Laura comes to truly dislike Sandy and to feel alienated from Hal; and the only one making any contact at all is the viper who poisoned Ted's scuba gear, blew up his boat, and torched his house. The resolution, when it comes, hardly frees anyone. From one of the more interesting new voices in detective fiction: a downbeat but welcome respite from the mystery-by-formula crowd.