My wife felt cold because she was dead."" Nick Blake, alcoholic hack writer, returns to N. Y. for a reconciliation with wife Clair and wakes up from a gin blackout to find her body in bed beside him. The cops discover a bite-mark on strangled Clair's breast (type A saliva), evidence of death-time sex (type O semen), and a leather-and-iron, zipper-mouthed mask under the mattress. While Nick recaps his boozy marriage and joins sarcastic Sgt. Toomis (who's from Queens and incensed by Manhattan bed games) in puzzling out the ugly questions--who wore the mask? who were the men?--Manville treats us to the deceased's ""Spoken History,"" tapes she made while cocaine muling in sunny Cal. These contain much trendy stuff about men and marriage (""You marry the father. You live with the mother""), and Clair also shares gratuitous, hardcore fantasies, but they don't quite explain--nothing does--exactly what happened that night or why. And, unlike Rossner's Goodbar events, the dank doings here don't really encapsulate urban desperation, don't capture anything more profound than Clair's credo: ""If they are proud to be studs, let them be used as such? Manville does capture the raunchy exchanges and foul air of West Village bars and Manhattan stationhouses--drag queens, Chinese food to go, ""Don't pull my prick."" There's energy too in the Nick-Clair divided viewpoint, and in the character of the Blakes' friend, Felix, who's in analysis ""to become a more efficient rat,"" who takes a pair of plastic mannequin legs with him on a date, who says, when informed that his girlfriend has married somebody else, ""Tell her she has any children, we're through."" So, even if, with all its pretensions, this is just TV-instant coffee, it's laced with scotch and loaded with enough caffeine to keep you up till it's over and forgotten.