Following up his flavorsome debut in Dead Air (1987), wisecracking narrator-sleuth Peter Finley returns--in another mystery that more or less redeems a flimsy story (even flimsier this time) with jaunty patter, juicy dialogue, and engaging New York people. Finley, a cable-TV investigative reporter, has heard about the suicide of Washington Square U. (read NYU) undergrad Julie Samson. But he doesn't think there's a story there till one of Julie's classmates, aspiring journalist Lea Ballard, convinces Finley that the why of Julie's suicide is an important, potent mystery. So Finley (a WSU alum) interviews Julie's ad-man father, a chilly widower; he searches Julie's dorm room, finding $10,000 in unexplained cash; he talks to her teachers; he spars with her sleazy ex-boyfriend. And he tries to talk to Julie's former roommate Sara Hildreth, a scared dropout--but before he can, Sara winds up murdered out in Queens. Something nasty is going on, of course. (Even Finley's wife Jeannie gets roughed up by an unknown assailant.) Unfortunately, however, after nearly 200 pages of stretched-out, predictable inquiries, the bulk of the so-so plot all emerges in a series of clunky, ill-prepared confessions. Still, readers who value repartee over ratiocination will again find Finley first-class company--smart-alecky but never obnoxious, hip but warmly old-fashioned too--as he comments on food, sports (Lupica's primary turf), movies, music, and USA Today (""The whole paper reads like a ransom note"").