The poster boy for schlock (The Best Laid Plans, 1997, etc.) calls on the cops, the courts, and the shrinks for his latest soaper, this one based on actual murder trials. Meet Ashley Patterson, a typical Sheldon nice girl: slim figure, patrician features, and ""a quiet elegance about her."" Only a curmudgeon could dislike Ashley. Is the fact that she lacks spark, style, wit, warmth, warts, edge, or any other at all interesting aspect of personality her fault? Of course not. The fault is Sheldon's, who never came up with a character he couldn't turn into cardboard. Still, there's a problem: If no one actually dislikes Ashley, then how to explain the scary stalking of Ms. Bland Perfection? The lipsticked hate message scrawled abruptly on her mirror? The mysterious nastiness atwirl on her computer screen? And then, when all of the appropriate men get murdered and mutilated, why would anyone want to frame the estimable Ashley? To the cops that answer is obvious--no one would. They claim the evidence against her is overwhelming. Most others agree, including Judge Williams, scheduled to preside at Ashley's trial. She summons David Singer, Ashley's lawyer, to her chambers and all but orders him to ""plead your client to life without parole."" If he refuses, he'll be sorry. What's behind this remarkable intervention from the bench? Nothing more nefarious, Sheldon gives us to understand, than good citizenship in action: Judge Williams simply wants to save taxpayers the expense of a lengthy and unnecessary trial. (No stickler for the Constitution, that judge.) Both sides assemble their shrinks: dueling lawyers, dueling psychiatrists, a grueling trial. The verdict is predictable, but--to give Sheldon his due--the denouement is not. Primer-ish prose and flat characters Ë† la Sheldon. Still, whatever it is that's worked before will here almost certainly work again.