The author's appealing ex-cop--six-foot, redheaded private eye Carlotta Caryle (A Trouble of Fools)--returns with another Boston-based adventure. Lieutenant Mooney, a friend from Carlotta's trine on the force, has been suspended after a barroom brawl that's left a man near death. There's a missing weapon, along with a missing witness--a hooker named Janine--who could clear Mooney, and Carlotta sets out to find her. But while night-watching for Janine in the Combat Zone--Boston's seedy bar area--Carlotta picks up another client, young Jerry Toland, who's looking for teenager Valerie Haslam, his suburban neighbor and classmate at Tony Emerson prep school. Valerie has disappeared (not for the first time), and Carlotta, trying to fill in the background, finds an almost indifferent, fuzzy-headed mother and a sleek, moderately concerned stockbroker father. Only Geoffrey Reardon, the school's strikingly handsome drama coach, seems to care. It is when Reardon is found dead, an apparent suicide, however, that Carlotta realizes the crucial importance of the missing diary Valerie had given him. She will find the diary--and Valerie--in a wrenching finale to her search for answers. The Barnes style is brisk and easy, with unforced plotting, characters who are kinky but believable, and a heroine who's warm, brash; funny, and smart--star of the current crop of female sleuths. A winner.