Romance writer Simonson makes a competent--though less than compelling--entry into the mystery genre with a story set in the northern California college town of Monte. Lark Dailey--a six-foot, part-time basketball coach--runs a bookstore there with some help from Ginger Gates, whose burly boyfriend Dennis Fromm is a Forest Ranger. Lark's lover is well-read police detective Jay Dodge; her New York-based mother is a well-known poet, one of whose mentors was David Llewellyn, a famed homosexual poet-teacher. Lark figures that's the reason for an invitation to a weekend at Llewellyn's nearby lodge, where her host--witty, charming, in his 80's--presides over the lush surroundings and sumptuous cuisine with the help of Filipino cook Domingo and handsome houseboy Miguel. Other guests are alcoholic newspaper-owner Bill Huff; his second wife Lydia; Bill's visiting daughter Janey; Llewellyn's grandniece Angharad; her loutish husband Ted; English professor Win D'Angelo; and Dennis Fromm's unlikely mother Denise, an aging but still theatrical ex-dancer. Lark is uncomfortably aware of barbs and tensions beneath the polite party surface but totally shocked by Llewellyn's sudden death from a poison-laced drink. Jay takes charge, of course, as Miguel disappears and Llewellyn's will is read, providing a startling revelation and some surprising bequests. The body count escalates--but not the pace--as tension dwindles in a mass of domestic and romantic detail until the killer is unmasked. Too carefully colorful characters, some heavy-handed plot contrivances and hackneyed, unconvincing motivation undermine a story that's still readable, gracefully written and moderately absorbing. Add a plus for the mountain greenery and small-town ambience.