Murder and other, slower, forms of death and decay on Chicago's skid row, as marginal p.i. Paul Whelan prowls among the winos and street preachers looking for the man who killed his even more marginal friend Artie Shears, who'd been interviewing derelicts for a book he hoped would turn his life around. When Whelan lands another client- -small-town ingÇnue Jean Agee, searching for her wayward kid brother Jerry--it's clear that the cases are connected, but how? Does Jerry know the mysterious Sharkey (a street person with a bodyguard, no less) whom Artie was excited about talking to, or is he another victim, or the killer himself? Whelan's persistent intimations of mortality amid the mounting body count (eventually including both the bodyguard and Sharkey) hint that things won't go well for him, and they don't; but the novel's depressive charge is offset by rare qualities of perception and pity. Newcomer Raleigh seems to have gotten so deeply inside his hero and his seamy world that there may be nothing left for a sequel. But it would be great to be wrong about that.