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Payment in Kind

J. A. Jance. Avon Books, $7.99 (376pp) ISBN 978-0-380-75836-4

In his ninth appearance, Detective J. P. Beaumont of the Seattle Police is swamped with problems: a pair of corpses at the public school district office, and the unwelcome assistance of self-promoting Detective Paul Kramer. Marcia Kelsey, a district employee, and Alvin Chambers, a security guard, are found partially naked, legs entwined, dead of gunshot wounds. A note found nearby says, ``A, See you tonight at the usual time. M.'' When Pete Kelsey learns that his wife may have been having an affair with Chambers, he calmly observes that she had always had ``outside interests.'' Kramer is itching to pin the murders on Kelsey, and when the husband's name and identity turn out to be fake, the overly ambitious detective is ready to press charges. But Beaumont learns how 20 years of mostly innocent deceit have finally come to bear deadly fruit. This entertaining work moves along at a sprightly pace, sprinkling delicious clues along the way, but readers may conclude that Jance ( Minor in Possession ) isn't playing quite fair--Beaumont misses a crucial identification that a peripheral character makes easily late in the book. Author tour. (Mar.)