Burns' narcotics cop Gabe Wager won an Edgar for his Denver Police Dept. debut (The Alvarez Journal) but stumbled drearily through last year's The Farns-worth Score. In a wise move, then, Burns has transferred Gabe from narc to homicide--so much more variety in murder than cocaine--and has given him a gripping, grisly first killing to unravel: the head of a blonde is found artfully arranged among the tranquil greenery of the Botanic Gardens. Identification, of course, is the first problem (the torso eventually turns up), and soon Wager is immersed in the sad world of second-rate models, exploitative mentors and photographers. Moving things along to a not altogether convincing psycho-solution: the very funny, very rough Burns patter. ""Say, did you know that most people are right-handed and have hearts on the left side? God made it that way so people could stab each other easier."" Slap and crackle.