Under pressure to turn in his Yale philosophy dissertation in a month, Zach Blumberg discovers that every disk, every hard copy, even his notes, have vanished. Why would anybody want to stop publication of a thesis on the forgotten reactionary Joseph de Maistre? Desperate, Zach places a personal ad that doesn't answer the question but unearths a similar case: Charles Wilson, a Princeton philosophy student, has lost his dissertation too. Before Zach can compare notes with Wilson, he's disappeared, eventually to turn up an apparent suicide in Arlington. But Charles's friend Kate helps Zach hook the missing theses into a conspiracy that runs from Yale's secret societies to the Supreme Court. ``You really think a few philosophy professors have had any influence on our culture?'' Kate asks at one point. First- novelist Levine, himself a Yale philosophy grad, seems to be courting readers less skeptical than his heroine. The Pelican Brief meets Shelley's Heart, with a dash of Nietzsche and Leo Strauss. The conspiracy is preposterous, the characters wafer-thin, but it's all great diversion for philosophy students looking for distractions from their own work.