Publisher Nicholas Barlow's dead star editor, Parker Foxcroft (``the man bore the names of two private schools''), was so well- hated that anyone might have killed him. He'd broken up the marriage of Nick's sub-rights director and his author wife, driven Nick's art director to the point of quitting, and gotten a poet fired from his academic sinecure. Nick, on learning that the police think him a prime suspect (he'd told off Parker very publicly at the last ABA convention), investigates, only to find even more suspicious characters falling out of trees: the bestselling author who suddenly takes it into his head to write a mystery and wants to follow Nick, ``the high-muck-a-muck of the thriller,'' around his office as he detects; the fetching assistant editor implausibly smitten with Nick; the woman who turns up at Parker's funeral to spit in his face. Where will it all end?: When Nick's wheelchair- bound brother, Tim, spots the vital clue, showing that Nick's uncharacteristic modesty about his detective abilities is eminently justified. Inconsequentially plotted, without enough clues to nourish a flea. Fortunately, though, Nick's more florid snobberies have been seriously pruned; he's considerably easier to take here than in his debut, Casual Slaughters (1992).