As in both previous outings (The Innocents, 1995; Bearing Secrets,1996), Wil Hardesty, passionate surfer, professional sleuth, plunges into the past to solve a modern-day mystery. This time, though, it’s his own past to which attention must be paid. Way back when, the teenaged Wil and Van Zant kids were inextricably connected. Start with Denny Van Zant, exciting, courageous, knowing, everything a 17-year-old best friend should be. It’s Denny, after all, who teaches Wil to surf. And while Denny is doing that, his kid sister, Trina, is offering instruction of another sort to Wil. These prove to be satisfactory arrangements all around until the day young Carmen Marquez is found murdered, a knife in her chest. Pregnant Carmen. Carmen from the wrong side of the tracks. The Van Zants, of course, are very definitely from the privileged side, and as the murdered girl’s boyfriend, Denny inevitably heads the suspect list. With the case against him still in its formative stage, however, the Van Zants hustle him off to join the Marines. But you don—t outwit Fate that easily. In Vietnam, Denny is killed in action. Or is he? There are those who don—t think so. Among them is Denny’s mother, who hires Wil to prove her right. And while he’s at it, she wants him to clear her son of Carmen’s long-ago murder. From there on, the plot twists and turns ferociously, though not always persuasively. The ubiquitous drug lord makes a wearisome entrance, for instance, paving the way for an overly familiar Grand Guignol climax. Trying for noir, Barre too readily crosses into melodrama. Writers who do that pay a price: It’s hard to take them seriously.