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The third absorbing Kate Martinelli story (after the Edgar-winning A Grave Talent and its follow-up, To Play the Fool) leads the Bay Area cop into the Pacific Northwest, where a serial killer is on the loose. Kate's female lover Lee, severely disabled in an earlier tale, leaves to spend some time on an island off the Washington coast. At the same time, Kate's partner, Al, is wooing a woman whose precocious 12-year-old daughter, Jules, asks Kate to help her find a now-missing homeless boy whom she has met in a park. While struggling with little success to cope with Lee's absence, Kate finds Jules's friend but in the process gets hit on the head hard enough to have to take medical leave from the department‘until her sporadic, debilitating headaches cease. When Al and Jules's mother go on their honeymoon right before Christmas, Jules stays with Kate; on a trip north, Jules disappears from the motel near Portland. The desperate search for the girl, who fits the profile of the killer's other victims, creates excruciating anguish for Kate, particularly after she is sent back to California. There, she breaks some rules to find out whether Jules was taken by the killer or by someone who knew her personally. Although readers may connect pieces of the puzzle sooner than Kate, the pleasure of her company and the accelerating suspense preceding the climax make for a compelling read. Author tour. (Jan.)

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