``Fantastic as they may sound,'' this enterprising first novel begins, ``the events in this narrative are true.'' Well, don't worry: The ensuing plot is considerably less fantastic than you'll find in most mysteries, let alone in Weird Stories. The weirdness here is evidently meant to focus on the sleuth, southern California parapsychologist Elizabeth Chase, who's hired by Escondido police sergeant Thomas McGowan to look into the fatal car crash of Janice Freeman, a high-school friend of his who was going to law school and working as investor liaison at Pacific Properties. Of course, you might find it strange that supposedly hard-headed McGowan hires Elizabeth on an unsupported hunch, pays her with his own money (acquired on the strength of another hunch), and never considers that Michael Huerte, the other driver killed in the accident, might have been the intended target. Or maybe it's a little odd that practically all the clues (yes, there are clues) are crammed into the novel's last 40 pages. But there's precious little fantasy behind Elizabeth's oddly appealing combination of routine investigation and occasional, unpredictable psychic flashes, or to the commonplace mystery she ends up solving. A good idea for a new detective, but newcomer Lawrence is so determined to show that her heroine really isn't weird that she forgets to make her story interesting. Maybe the promised series will deliver the goods.