Three murder victims, all women, are smothered to death within days of each other. World-class shoppers all, they met their fates while watching Claire Hunt-host of St. Louis's most popular TV home-shopping show-on videotape. Solely on that basis, Claire finds herself rated as suspect number one. Why? Good question. And on page 152, a minor character finally raises it, for all the good it does her. The best answer she gets pertains to the possibility of a mysterious aura hovering about a policewoman's head, the dark effect of which is a pronounced anti-Claire bias. "I think she's dirty," grumbles Detective Myra Longfellow, who may be the least convincing cop since the Keystoners. But now Claire and her adoring husband, bookshop owner Gil, find themselves under the gun, so to speak. In time-honored crime-fiction fashion, they respond by becoming amateur sleuths in order to prove Claire's innocence. Sleuthing takes them down various unrewarding paths and into several ill-tempered confrontations with the police. At length, though, they turn up at a meeting of Gamblers Anonymous where, somewhat implausibly, several suspects put in an appearance. Shortly thereafter, the trail again goes cold. The sleuthing, both amateur and professional, seems to reach a dead end. Actually, such sleuthing as there's been all slid into the low grade. And when the feckless killer is eventually caught, it's mostly because he's entirely cooperative. Bland characters, feeble plotting, undistinguished prose. Randisi (In the Shadow of the Arch, 1998, etc.) has done better. .