Another of the author's interesting departures from his Father Dowling and Andrew Broom series (Finger Marks, etc.). Here, poet- academic Howard Webster has a minor literary reputation and three failed marriages behind him when he retires at 61 to an isolated Wisconsin farmhouse. There, he finds a drinking buddy in Ober, a dissolute but educated tramp. Webster, blocked in his attempts at poetry writing, keeps notes on their windy encounters. When Ober kills himself, Webster seizes the moment, arranges things to look as though he himself committed suicide, and takes off for Sardinia. After more than a year there, he discovers that his literary status has soared; his unloved daughter Felicia has established a foundation in his name; and a curator has been installed at the farmhouse, now a mini-museum. Webster can't stay away. Returning, in disguise, he finds--and further fuels--an unlikely series of events overlaid with greed and irony, ending in death. Byzantine plotting, a surplus of complicated characters, much intellectual posturing, and a mostly cheerless atmosphere--all in an ambitious but only sporadically compelling story.