Comedy has never been the forte of hard-boiled specialist Estleman, author of the strong, somber Amos Walker series. And this attempt at mystery-farce--featuring the misadventures of foul, fat Detroit shamus Ralph Poteet--is a weak, shamelessly derivative mixture of smart-alecky dialogue (â€¦ la Lawrence Block), and smirky/vulgar running gags. Ralph, already down on his luck, is plunged into a nightmare when his upstairs neighbor, hooker Lyla, begs for help: Monsignor John Breame, a regular customer, is dead of a coronary in her bed. Scenting good blackmail potential, Ralph takes some embarrassing photos, then helps the Bishop's lieutenant in hushing things up. But he soon realizes he's meddling in dangerous stuff: Lyla is nearly killed by a firebomb; their landlord is strangled with Ralph's necktie; the Bishop is shot to death with Ralph's gun. Could it be that Ralph has stumbled into a top-secret government operation gone wrong--and a bloody cover-up? Yes, indeed. So, urged on by Lyla's sister (a teen sexpot), Ralph does some computersleuthing, flees from assorted assassins (crashing the festivities at a pit-bull owners' convention), and barely survives to unmask the groaningly obvious killer from Washington, D.C. Estleman's enough of a pro to make this reasonably lively and occasionally engaging. But antihero Ralph is merely obnoxious, the mechanical jokes are mostly puerile, and the thin scenario (seemingly expanded from a short story) is likely to satisfying neither mystery-comedy mavens nor Estleman fans.