From Mikulski, US senator from Maryland (Democrat), and Oates (Making Peace, 1991), a feeble attempt at a Washington suspense novel that reads like a hand-me-down episode of Murder, She Wrote. Digression and useless detail are the maladies of most bad thrillers, and this has both in spades. Eleanor ``Norie'' Gorzack is picked by the governor of Pennsylvania to replace a suddenly deceased US senator. A rank amateur in the ways of the the arcane and patrician (read: rich, white, male) Senate, Gorzack finds herself immediately in hot water. A Vietnam MIA expert who lost her husband in the war, Gorzack, with a tyro's aplomb, lobbies to be selected for the MIA subcommittee only to run afoul of the committee chairman, a velvety southerner. Meanwhile, a Vietnam vet is murdered, dying in her arms and clutching a clipping of an MIA article; the spectacle draws further unwanted attention from a lanky Capitol Hill cop, Lt. Thomas Carver. When one of Gorzack's young staffers is murdered, Carver begins to suspect that someone interested in covering up MIA issues is trying to send Gorzack a brutal message. The senator, however, never says die; working her way through a maze of conflicting Washington loyalties, she conducts her own shadow investigation. Fund- raisers, lobbyists, evangelists, MIA activists, and her colleagues all vie for Gorzack's attention--and supply her with clues. A trip to Vietnam as part of a Congressional MIA delegation produces epiphanies, but Gorzack remains dogged in her pursuit of the killer. A series of threats, anonymous letters, and poisoned gifts leads to an education in the depths of American political corruption. Enough juicy insider dish to keep things peripherally lively, but the book's basics- plot, character, and pacing--leave much to be desired. Ultimately, everything rides on the plucky Gorzack, and the senator's shoulders aren't wide enough for the load.