Byrd's three outings for San Francisco shamus Mike Haller (California Thriller and Fly A way, Jill preceded this one) have followed an odd publishing route: first they're US paperback originals, then they're British hardcovers--which are subsequently imported by Schocken for US distribution. As of this moment, in fact, Byrd's US-paperback publisher, Bantam, is raising objections to the appearance of the Allison & Busby versions in the US (which might affect availability). In any case, 40-ish Haller is a likable, well-above-average narrator in the tough/sophisticated tradition of Robert B. Parker's Spenser--switching from rough stuff to literary allusions to fine wisecracks with downbeat panache. This time he starts out at a bitter boil: his precious private-eye license has been suspended for three years--because of a nasty little frame-up. Who has sabotaged Haller's career--and why? Was it because Haller, working for a posh lawyer, was on the verge of tracking down Muriel Contreras, a hooker who (unbeknownst to her) has inherited $800,000? So it seems--especially after Haller's colleague in the case is brutally murdered. And Haller's quest to regain his license leads him into grim/funny encounters with hookers, pimps, foul cops, Muriel's coheirs (one of whom soon turns up dead), and underworld blackmailers--who kidnap Haller's winning girlfriend Dinah (a plump psychiatrist) in the all-action finale. Vividly sleazy S.F. backgrounds, snazzy repartee in assorted accents, and an agreeably uncomplicated (if rather skimpy) plot: solid entertainment with warmth and wit nicely complementing the chases and shootouts.