Another cheerful exercise in mass murder for retired newspaper exec-turned-detective Ralph Simmons and his placid wife, Lillian (Print-Out, 1982; Empress of Coney Island, 1986, etc.). Ralph's out cruising Little Neck Bay with honorary niece Eileen Engelhart when an explosion kills her father and stepmother and starts a fire that destroys 97 houses and kills 11 other people. The deaths of a few victims--Kitty (the Cat Woman) Henderson and Don and Betsy (Ken and Barbie) Grant--are described in harrowing detail, but the general tone remains breezy as Ralph and Eileen flush out the killer from among a cast that includes sometime seer Penelope Potter; Todd Gilchrist, despondent over losing his job and burying his son; graying psychiatrist Rudolf Mannheim; ex-Nazi Eric Bushman; and ""teddibly"" British Marlene Thatcher and her callow son Teddy. A white rose sent to Engelhart a week before the explosion links his death to a 50-year-old assassination attempt against a Nazi official, but who took that earlier abortive bombing as reason to firebomb Engelhart--or, a few months later, run over Mannheim and his wife after the suspicious deaths of Gilchrist and Bushman? And will retiring Ralph be able to keep Eileen from blurting out her guesses to the wrong people? Lots of murders, lots of minor laughs, lots of good talk. Ralph, though no threat to Sherlock Holmes, is as quirky and charming as ever.