At first the job seems offbeat but routine: to check out the bona fides of a surrogate mother for dry-goods heir Stuart Colbert and his wife, Millicent, without letting her know who the clients will be. But two months after San Francisco shamus John Marshall Tanner gives Greta Hammond his diffident imprimatur (after having fallen briefly into her bed himself), she disappears. So Marsh's rehired to track her down before she can hold the Colberts up for more money by threatening to get an abortion (a fate they obviously fear much more than the possibility of kidnapping). A search of Greta's apartment doesn't tell Marsh where she's gone; but when the fingerprints lifted from a ruler she left behind turn out to belong to old-time Colbert neighbor Clara Brennan, a trapdoor opens on some long-buried family secrets. Why did Stuart's tyrannical father, Rutherford, ever encourage him to seduce Clara, daughter of the right-hand man who embezzled Colbert money and killed himself when Rutherford threatened to expose him? Why would Stuart pick Clara as a surrogate mom when their first romance had been so disastrous? What has Rutherford got up his sleeve this time, and how is Clara/Greta planning to outwit him? Greenleaf (Southern Cross, 1993, etc.) takes his time setting the hook, getting you to care about Greta and the dislikable Colberts, and it pays off in a dazzling series of revelations and a final surprise that packs a wallop Ross Macdonald would have been proud of.