Carney's obsession with homosexual S&M (cf. The Real Thing, 1968) continues--this time in a verbose, often-pretentious novel with a murder-mystery format. The narrator is a San Diego science-museum curator named Scott, whose ex-lover Glenn Symonds (a successful plastic surgeon) is found dead, hanging by his heels--a victim of cyanide and/or self-castration. The chief suspect: beefy young welder Eugene, Symond's current lover (and another ex-lover of Scott's), who has disappeared. So Scott, sure that mild-souled Eugene couldn't have committed the murder, goes looking for him. And though Scott himself never has cared for the S&M scene (his own much-brooded-on, long-term affair with Symonds was relatively non-violent), his investigation takes him to assorted S&M clubs--where he encounters unnatural acts aplenty (as well as a corpse or two) and engages in extended musings on the psychology/philosophy of leather, whips, and master/slave paraphernalia: ""Was it all merely the lavage of sick minds, or truly the exaltation of technique that most who practiced it maintained it was? Or was it the hermetic art a few like Symonds tried with such expenditure of thought and effort to realize--the vestiges of a cult as dark and fraught with meaning as the Attic corn mysteries reeking of butchered pigs and rotted sperm?"" With no real mystery interest (Symonds turns out to be an ""insanely virtuous,"" quasi-Nietzschean suicide) and only a few genuine insights: a sordid essay/tour through a by-now-familiar subculture, but too effortfully multi-syllabic (""There resulted from this enforced proximity a delumination of Glenn Symonds in my eyes from the far heights of the dulia I used to render him to"") to have much voyeuristic appeal.