A first novel set in Cambridge, Mass., where writer, sometime English teacher Liz Conners leads a life of reasonable content that's shattered by her discovery of the beaten, raped body of apartment neighbor Joan Stanley. Liz tries to help lover Jack Lingeman of the Cambridge police track the killer, finding out some unexpected, unsavory doings behind Joan's prim facade; interviewing director Peter Lewis at the crisis intervention center where she worked; collecting psychological profiles of the murderer and lots of useless info. With the killings of town-tramp Sandra Dembkoski and Liz's reporter friend Janice Miller, urgency turns to near-panic and, of course, Hz barely escapes becoming victim number four in a brutal confrontation with the killer. A solid fix on life on the academic fringes and lots of snappy repartee, much of it sounding like inner-city street talk (for this one needs Harvard?), make for a mildly diverting debut marred by predictable plotting, a long telegraphed murderer, and a little too much psychobabble.