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In an eighth outing, Jill Smith, the author's Berkeley-based policewoman (T/me Expired, 1993, etc.), recently on Homicide detail, goes back to patrol duty when Detective Sergeant Brucker arrives from Sacramento and takes over her job. She's soon fielding complaints from Bryn Wiley, onetime Olympic team diver and owner of a fitness center called The Girls Team. Someone's been shooting out car windows in the driveway of the house in the hills she shares with her look-alike cousin and secretary Ellen Waller. Bryn accuses neighbor Sam Johnson, whose anarchistic leanings go way back. He's now married to Fanny, once another Olympic contender, now crippled. Sam has recently opened the Heat Exchange, in direct competition with The Girls Team. Vandalism escalates to murder when Ellen is found shot to death behind the wheel of Bryn's car. The case is complicated by Ellen's fabricated identity and by a connection to Bryn's other neighbor--Karl Pironnen, a recluse obsessed with dogs and chess. Jill, with crucial help from old friend and adversary Herman Ott, a local p.i., manages to bring the case to a close before Brucker even begins to get a handle on it. The author's affection for Berkeley's past and present eccentrics is clear. Most everything else here is a muddle--uncompelling motives, contrived plot twists, and Jill's interminable inner musings. Lots of fuss; no fire.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Delacorte