North starts out with a silly but perky gimmick here--a London writer (selfindulgently named Sam North) who offers to write thrillers to order--but he soon lapses into routine, however tongue-in-cheek, imitation-hardboiled detection. Sam's first client is ""scrap king"" Danny Plant, who gives North a list of characters (from Plant's life) to assemble into a thriller. But next day Plant is murdered, and Sam is soon buying a copy of So You Want to be a Gumshoe and looking for suspects on the character list: Plant's mistress (with whom Sam makes instant whoopee), relatives, greedy colleagues, etc. And, of course, someone's trying to kill Sam, then kidnaps his girlfriend Susie, forcing Sam to drag Susie's annoying five-year-old daughter around on his sleuthings. A trick ending doesn't really help; and a few mildly funny lines are hardly enough to justify a whimsical retread of shamus cliches that's saturated in unimportable British references (""I was beginning to think I had stumbled on to an episode of The Sweeney"").