A fair-to-middling debut for L.A. ""corporate investigator"" Paul Marston, a medium-boiled narrator/shamus who's faintly engaging at best--as he looks into a ho-hum series of murders linked to a power-struggle at a conglomerate called Western Shores Corp. First, there's a private-plane crash, killing Western Shores prez Jack Carlisle (and a few others). Accident? Marston doesn't think so--especially since Carlisle was just about to take over a controlling interest in the company, thus frustrating the Mob-connected plans of Henry Howard, the company's founder. With Carlisle's widow (old man Howard's granddaughter) footing the bill, Marston sleuths in San Francisco--and learns that assorted Western Shores employees, most of whom turn up dead, have played roles in the Carlisle murder: hiring thugs; using sex-photo blackmail; poisoning that private-plane's personnel. But who is the mastermind behind all the mayhem? That's the familiar (and predictably resolved) question. And along the way, Marston gets beaten up a lot, witnesses a grim execution, and acquires a bedmate/sidekick--female prizefighter Angel Cantini--who saves his life and then (naturally) gets kidnapped by the bad guys. Some of Marston's wise-guy repartee is decently amusing, and the solidly paced action has a competent gloss. But, except for a few bit-players, the cast of characters lacks zest; the bicker-and-lust romance with Angel is cornily contrived; and Marston himself remains as essentially generic as the routine plotting.