A tidy debut featuring Sergeants Carlo Cruz and Jay Goldstein of the Oakland, California, police. Clifford Hawkins, a thoroughly bad lot living in a young males-only rooming house, has been shot to death. Neighboring teen-ager Tricia Rayborn, driving a stolen car and high on marijuana, is arrested, then put in her artist mother's custody pending trial. But warm-hearted Cruz and intellectual Goldstein have open minds about Tricia's guilt. Goldstein's friendship with the sharp, black radical mother, Carrie, gives him a lead to the offbeat nature of Hawkins' rooming house, while Cruz explores in another direction, following a clue provided by the frantic Carrie. As it turns out, both leads pay off--with the true murderer uncovered and some potentially dangerous cult activities aborted. The author works hard at enlisting sympathy for Carrie and Tricia, with minor success. She fares better with Cruz and Goldstein--and with the laid-back California characters and atmosphere.