High Fall

Susan Dunlap, Author Delacorte Press $19.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-385-31024-6

Kiernan O'Shaugnessy, the doughty, acid-tongued 40-ish PI and former forensic pathologist introduced in A Pious Deception, moves inside the Hollywood stunt world to probe two murders spaced 10 years apart. The stunt lore and forensics in the latest Kiernan adventure nearly compensate for its implausible, contrived plot. Stuntwoman Lark Sodervoil, 19, aims at becoming the first person to replicate the spectacular multi-flip known as the Gaige Move but dies in the attempt, plunging over a 500-foot bluff. The gag, or event, is directed by Cary Bleeker, who's been dogged by bad luck ever since the fiery death a decade before of Greg Gaige, who wasn't adequately protected in a fiery stunt. Lark's plunge was witnessed by five people who had also seen Gaige go up in flames. But perception is not reality. Suspecting foul play in Lark's death and out of respect for Gaige, whom she had slightly known and greatly admired, Kiernan investigates and finds that the recent death leads directly to the earlier one. Readers hoping that Kiernan will finally fall for Brad Tchernak, her level-headed dog-sitter, houseman and gourmet chef, will be put on hold again, as the tiny PI finds another object for her affections. (Sept.)