A minor official in Inspector Henri Castang's town (""a French city of some three hundred thousand souls"") is gunned down on the street--so at first Castang and colleagues suspect a terrorist band. But then they begin interviewing the official's family--restaurateur wife, slimy son, lazy son, odd daughter, serene mistress--and when the slimy son dies of electrocution followed by his mother's attempted suicide, the investigation focuses hard on the remaining relations. And indeed it appears that son Thierry has fallen in with a secret society involved with group sex, perhaps quasi-political action. Behind this society: a guru-like blackmailer/manipulator/malcontent who is finally trapped in his decadent lair. An unsatisfactory plot? Definitely. Here, more than ever, Freeling uses the mystery format chiefly as a frame for moody socio-cultural reflections, for his quirky, sometimes engaging free-associative style. And despite the elaborate, itchy personal musings--Castang's wife Vera has a baby, Jacques Brel dies (""You were the poet, boy. A poet is for the people. Or to be polite, take Mr. Eliot, stick him up his waste land"")--Castang remains a strangely faceless hero. Highly limited appeal, then; only for veteran fans of post-Van der Valk Freeling.