The brutal murder of widow Claudine Taylor, head of a flaky, off-rich Texas family, is followed by the killing of her devoted priest--stunning the town of Kilkenny. So Francesca Mills, new owner of the Weekly Times, teams up with police-chief Blackie Boone to work through a list of suspects, including: Claudine's son Jake, running for the Senate; son Gregory, a disagreeable anti-Nuke fanatic; promiscuous daughter Winnie, presently engaged to politically ambitious Mayor Beaker Hogan. And matters are complicated by the motel-suicide of long-absent Karen Erikson. . . who was once deeply involved with the Taylors. The character of Francesca is lent a certain verismo here via details of her life as an ostomate--a user of a bladder bag outside the body. But the other players lack vitality; and, after a suspenseful start, first-novelist McCollum's dense plotting becomes disappointingly dull and repetitious.