Beware of strangers bearing stacks of scandalously revealing photos they want to leave with you, even if they look really juicy--the oblivious principals include a US senator, a superior court judge, and a saintly philanthropist--and even if digging dirt is all in a day's work for you. Syndicated columnist Alexander Brass, based at the New York World, agrees to hold on to a sheaf of photos for his coyly unidentified informant, and the next thing you know, somebody's been murdered (and it's not the informant). His dander up--it's 1935, and Brass is the well- spoken sort of gent who might use a phrase like that--Brass conscripts recently widowed Cathy Fox, who's not exactly grief- stricken, to join his legman and amanuensis Morgan DeWitt in tracking down the photographer who snapped the poisonous pictures. In no time at all, the pair is knee-deep in a wash of blackmailing Nazis, preposterously unmotivated revelations, and gratuitous cameos (Lindbergh, Earhart, W.C. Fields). Sci- fi/suspense/nonfictioner Kurland (Star Griffin, 1987, etc.; How to Solve a Murder: the Forensic Handbook, not reviewed), aiming throughout for a puckish retro effervescence--think of Fred Astaire playing Archie Goodwin--ends up with a weightless jollity in which nothing (bereavement, mutilation, love at first sight with an obliging nymphomaniac) matters any more to you than to the resolutely dapper heroes. Clueless in every sense of the word.