Paul Manson has just finished four years in prison for strangling his out-of-control father, which he did to protect his mother from further violence. She has since died, and Paul is thinking of resuming his Ph.D. study of American Indian history. First, though, he must warn one Philomena Wise that his fellow prison inmate Carl Packer may be trying to have her killed. He finds his quarry--an attractive woman who seems to run a detective agency, is closemouthed about her connection to Packer, and soon disappears. When Paul goes looking for her in a nearby town, he finds that a Philomena Wise has been murdered--but she's not his Philomena, who soon reappears as ex-cop Dorothy Mann. Dorothy's use of the dead girl's name; the appearance of small-time crooks Art Torrance and knife-expert assassin Frenchie; the feuding between police officers Greaves and Filey; Packer's conviction on a murder charge--all go back to the killing of a policeman two years before. Ormerod, never one to take a direct route (Death of an Innocent, etc.), outdoes himself here--moving his talky characters in pointless circles, then finally presenting a near motiveless killer to his benumbed readers. Endlessly belabored.