Even before he's found out why an old friend, TV producer Wyndham Davis, has asked him to pop over, rolling-stone London journalist Sam Dean's confronted with a corpse: a production assistant knifed outside the apartment where Davis is taping an interview for a true-crime program he's trying to sell. Inside the apartment, things aren't going much better: Davis's plan to exculpate Leon Ross, convicted of hacking his wife and young daughter to death, is foundering with the disappearance of Helen Ross's half-caste boyfriend Amaryll Johnson. ``I never liked being brought in to do the black stuff,'' grumbles Dean, but he agrees to go hunting for Johnson. What he finds along the way is a world of rapacious creditors, abandoned lovers, and casually disintegrating families--as well as his own dangerously rekindled affair with Davis's importunate wife Sarah, who's learned quite a few new tricks since their long-ago romance, not to mention some sordid secrets about the TV production crew that's trying to one- up the justice system. It's only a matter of time before Sam's thrown off the case and has to continue on his own, ``for revenge, or because I'm obsessed, or because I can't think of anything else to do, or because I'm in selfless pursuit of the truth.'' The jagged, propulsive rhythms of Phillips's writing carry Sam's fourth case (Point of Darkness, 1995, etc.) over the bogs of overplotted intrigue.