Corny, old-fashioned mystery/melodrama--appropriately set in 1942 and stretched out with restless shifts of viewpoint and time-frame. Charles Dain, publisher of N.Y.'s Evening Express, has been shot and hovers near death. Whodunit? Was it really--the police version--an underworld hit-man of some kind? Well, primary narrator Max Wills, Dain's editor-in-chief and longtime ""father confessor,"" suggests that the answer may lie in the past: he recalls meeting teenage Dain before WW I, when lower-class Dain was the frustrated lover of beautiful young Sharon Fletcher (her bigoted father forced them apart); he remembers his wartime chumship with Dain in France, working on Stars and Stripes. . . while Sharon wed another and bore a child; he recalls how Dain stayed in Paris, married super-heiress Harriet, then bought himself a N.Y. 1920s paper, continuing to play Don Juan around town (with bachelor Max as his ""beard""). Meanwhile, as neurosurgeons operate on Dain, top Express reporter Terry Donovan sleuths, sure that the shooting is connected to Dain's adulteries; but he worries that perhaps his own new love--sexy young columnist Kate, Sharon's daughter and Max's protÃ‰gÃ‰e--may be the mistress/assassin. (Even worse, could it be that Kate was really fathered by the young Dain? Could it be incest? Or was the assailant perhaps angry/jealous wife Harriet?) Then, as Dain himself emerges from surgery, we are inside his mind--as he recalls the past: above all, his renewed secret romance with first-love Sharon during the past decade. And finally, though the recovering Dain claims that a gangster hit-man did indeed shoot him, we learn the Truth--not altogether surprising, even though Neely (Lies, An Accidental Woman, etc.) tries to be tricky Ã la Christie. Still: a reasonably successful attempt to convert an Erle Stanley Gardner-style plot into a more full-textured sort of romance/suspense novel--via period nostalgia (cameos by Harold Ross, Jimmy Walker), newspaper atmosphere, spicy sex, and a recollective format that almost literally echoes (Dain/Kane) that 1941-42 blockbuster, Citizen Kane.