London p.i. Laura Principal's plan to take a third housemate for Wildfell Cottage, the country house she shares with librarian Helen Cochrane, comes to grief when Monica Harcourt, the haunted painter she and Helen are ready to take on, is killed (stabbed, strangled, hammered) in her Cambridge flat. Grabbing spare hours from the two cases she's getting paid for--both unrelated but neatly worked out- -Laura digs into Monica's life and soon finds unexpected involvements with a sleazy college provost, who asks special favors in return for approving grant proposals, and a fiery anti-abortion M.P. Monica caught practically with his pants down. Be warned: the real killer is so well hidden as to be practically invisible. Already in her first novel, pseudonymous British academic Spring (sociology/Anglia Polytechnic) is a dab hand at teasing the most plausible suspects out of the woodwork. The prevailing mode is British--deft, unblinking, understated--but never too intoxicated with its own literacy.