Narrator-hero Ben Henry, an ex-newspaperman now driving a cab in San Francisco, makes a modestly promising debut--in a hard-boiled, often droll murder-mystery, fairly stylish but also overfamiliar and overwrought (Ross Macdonald Gothic). The dead man is famous veteran Frisco columnist Harry Shugart, shot dead in his Pacific Heights home. And Ben starts his amateur sleuthing as a favor to pathetic drug-dealer Yollo Current (an old, if not fond, acquaintance), who was supposed to deliver $90,000 worth of cocaine to Shugart's house on the murder night, making Yollo a top suspect (and probable frame-up victim). Was Shugart killed, then, because of drug connections? Or because of his semi-secret homosexual affair with Ricky Thiesmann, son of San Francisco's top newspaper publisher? (By coincidence--one of far too many here--this is the very same publisher who fired hero Ben for overzealous reporting on city corruption.) And what about Shugart's sexy daughter, whose financÃ‰ is a thuggish wheeler-dealer? Ben's search for the truth Involves a clutch of predictables: proliferating corpses, Raymond Chandler-ish seduction by the femme fatale, Oedipal secrets and primal motives exposed. The narration occasionally lapses into macho sentimentality and self-dramatization (especially in Ben's dialogue with a dead pal's spirit). But Weiss, author of Edgar-winning nonfiction (Double Play), more often gives likable Ben a fresh, sardonic, amusing viewpoint--on San Francisco neighborhoods, the newspaper business, and (above all) the authentic details of big-city cab-driving. So this is a sturdy, well-paced first outing that could herald a welcome new series--if Weiss van wriggle free of the excess clichÃ‰s.