What happened to the shrewd, comic talents on display in Gallagher's first novel, Spend It Foolishly (1978)? You won't, alas, find them here--in a competent, fairly glossy, but utterly humorless stretching-out of an old Daphne du Maurier-ish romance/suspense plot. The narrator is young N.Y. lawyer Patrick Mot, who burbles (in awfully un-masculine prose rhythms) of his love for mysterious, beautiful Neva Rive--whom he meets on Fifth Ave. one evening and loves at first sight. . . even though ambitious model Neva is a touchy, anorectic recluse who says such old lines as: ""I can't tell you, darling. If you start to know things. . . that will be the end."" What is Neva's secret? Who is the man named Lowry whose communications terrify her? The questions peak when Patrick takes Neva home to his folksy Wisconsin family for Christmas: Neva, it turns out, also comes from Wisconsin--and her parents (sadistic father, insane mother) figured in a weird disappearance five years ago. So, when Neva herself disappears after revealing that the dreaded Lowry is her husband, Patrick starts digging up the details of Neva's secret past. Did Lowry kill Neva's hateful father? Did Neva herself do the dirty deed? And what happened to Neva's brutalized mother? All is explained--clunkishly--in a showdown/eavesdropping session back in N.Y.; and after Lowry is violently disposed of, the lovers part but will try to rescue some happiness years later, even if Neva (now a superstar) is ""the woman who had cut me in the heart so deeply that she had changed me from an eager, fearless boy into a man who was bitter and angry and afraid of love."" A harmless recycling of ladies'-mag-suspense clichÃ‰s--with enough skillful touches to suggest that Gallagher might still follow up her promising first novel with something a lot better than this hackneyed diversion.