A debut novel set in London's East End--in a tattered, multi national neighborhood where the live-in social workers of Spitalfields Residential Settlement do their dedicated best to help the locals with their problems. The story is told by Kate Weatherly, the group's deputy director who, in her office one day, is knocked out by an unknown assailant and who soon after discovers the battered body of a young woman in her bedroom. None of the staff--unflappable director Agnes Campbell; married couple Pam and Eric; teacher Betty; bachelors Robin, Michael and Tom-- admits to knowing the victim, but they, and the police, are convinced that one of them must be the killer. Alibis, timetables, comings and goings are probed in numbing detail-- while Kate suffers more attacks on her life but manages to ferret out the murdered girl's identity and eventually drag the solution to light. Some minor secrets emerge along the way, but the tension here is dissipated in endless, airless chatter. Uniformly uncharismatic characters--plus a heroine who remains a polite, intelligent enigma--don't help a story in which a colorful local backdrop and a graceful writing style are the most visible assets.