Dean's straight-arrow professor-sleuth Neil Kelly (Ceremony of Innocence, etc.) is on off-season Nantucket trying to work on his book about Ben Jonson. The writer's block he's enduring seems related to separation from new love Dolly Allen, back in London, and to the invasion of his privacy by a Hollywood film crew about to make a movie based on a legendary 18th-century island bank robbery. Autocratic, freewheeling director William Olds is determined to have Neil write his script. Neil wants no part of it but somehow becomes father confessor to Olds' scummy crew--co-producer daughter Panda; Marilyn Monroe-type mistress Goldie; dwarfish, surprisingly erudite actor John Finn; cameramen Milo; yacht skipper-adventurer Jake Jones--all of them sewer-mouthed and damaged goods. Neil has also gotten to know a group of artisan, actors tying to make a living on the island--more picaresque than grotesque. They have discovered that nine-year-old C.J., daughter of Nell, bookkeeper jewelry-maker of the group, has been raped. Thus starts a chain of violence encompassing child abuse, incest, lesbianism and multiple murder. Neil's detecting skills play a minor role here. The author's narrative energy, dialogue that zings a mixture of erudition and obscenity, and characters that bristle with life are the stars.