Chicago homicide cop John Lamp, who pieces together evidence with the aplomb of Sherlock Holmes, narrows his investigation into the murder of dental assistant Alice Niedecker to a patient--cerebral theology professor Owen Anderson, who had the opportunity but, seemingly, no motive. Owen's wife, however, plays around; he himself seems incestuously fond of his daughter Valerie; and he overly enjoys twitting Lamp, who can't avert the death of Alice's brother. A newspaper clipping in the new victim's room leads to a years-old IRA-vendetta, other identities for the Anderson household, and a blind, geriatric Irishman, who knew everyone back in the old country, including a missing first husband--last seen visiting the Andersons. And: a former student of Owen's, shy Paul, who was obsessed with/seduced by Valerie, once overheard Owen talk of murdering Alice and her brother. Paul is now living a hermit-like existence on Iron Mountain and is slated to be Owen's next victim. A shootout at the cabin follows, with Lamp barely in time to save Paul. And there's a downbeat, dark coda concerning a seriously maimed Valerie. Owen's tormented IRA past is clearly more interesting--emotionally and politically--than the present-day Chicago sequences; one longs for a lengthy, vivid flashback. Overall, then, flawed but competent, with a crackling ending.