Winner of the 1980 John Creasey Award for Britain's best first mystery novel, this is indeed a talented debut--strong in every department except, alas, the most crucial one: the mystery. Cody's sleuth is bright, ironic Anna Lee, an ex-cop who's now a discriminated-against operative at slimy Martin Brierly's private-investigation firm. So Anna dives in energetically when, after months of boutique-shopliftings, she gets a real case: investigating the ""accidental"" car-crash death of young Deirdre Jackson, who ran away to London from her nouveau-riche parents. Anna's inquiries lead her into the seedy fringes of London's film world--a projectionists' service for home-party screenings (where the dead girl worked), a film-developing firm, a tacky film-appreciation society. Among Deirdre's mangy friends and lovers there's one surly fellow who kills himself immediately after being questioned by Anna. And the motives behind Deirdre's death become apparent all too soon, with no gratifying twists or particularly authoritative red herrings. Still, if the plotting peters out here, the characters and quiet comic charms do not: Anna herself is entirely, un-cutely endearing; her colleagues are a grandly mixed crew; her neighbors are adorable; and a wide range of villains and fools is expertly sketched in. Thoroughly pleasant, then, even without a worthy puzzle--and once Cody latches onto one, she's likely to move right to the top.