Hollywood-40's p.i. Toby Peters agrees to recover three paintings and three clocks stolen from the house of Salvador Dali and his wife Gala. The first two paintings and clocks turn up at places indicated by tricky messages (``Look for the second PLACE in Los Angeles'') that don't mention the dead men who turn up with them; the third is promised for a fatal denouement already forecast by the flashforward opening chapter. Dali's pretentiously determined clowning--he first appears in bunny suit and deerstalker--makes him a natural for Toby's beat, but he's practically the only character of any interest or consequence, as the solution will reveal. Above average for this uneven series (Poor Butterfly, 1970, etc.), though not in the same league as Kaminsky's stories about Inspector Rostnikov.