When investigative reporter Barry Stackpole disappears, his old pal Amos Walker (Sugartown, Angel Eves, etc.) goes looking for him--and is soon mired in Detroit's swampy underworld again, uncovering a dense network of crime-ring thuggery and police corruption. The primary clues are the seemingly unconnected stories suggested by news-clippings in Barry's current research file: the unsolved murder of Philip Niles, co-owner of a shady body-repair shop; the bygone shooting of a union shop steward; and the suicide of a Detroit Police inspector, soon after his abrupt retirement. How do these deaths link up? Are they also somehow linked to Barry's unfinished novel (Walker finds the manuscript) about guilty secrets from combat-days in Vietnam? And why is Walker himself repeatedly roughed up as he makes his dour way from crook to crook, widow to widow, and cop to cop? The answers, when they come, are brutish, long-windedly explained, only half-satisfying. The backgrounds and supporting cast, though vigorously sketched, are less varied and colorful than those in other Walker outings. And narrator-hero Walker, who has a downbeat fling with book-editor Louise Starr (a sleek dame with mixed motives), often slides from superior hard-boiled irony into pompous posturing and lame pseudo-eloquence. (""I got up, the rotted timbers of my thoughts spinning away in clouds of splinters. . ."") Still: above-average urban sleuthing, distinguished chiefly by the gritty, somber close-ups of Detroit at its dankest.