The murder of a respected public official brings to light his seamy personal dealings -- in this first novel by a Boston Globe reporter. Kenney's profession would be obvious to many readers, even if it were not stated, because of his attention to detail and his straightforward recounting of scenes. Unfortunately, he reports more often than he shows, sapping events of much of their dramatic and emotional potential. The story follows the efforts of ace Boston Post reporter Frank Cronin to bring to light the secret criminal activities of murdered Councillor Phillip Stewart, much beloved because of his work on behalf of Boston's poorest citizens. While he's continually stymied in his efforts by power brokers -- from the Kennedys to a local ""poverty priest"" and even to his own editor -- Cronin turns up witnesses and evidence that can't be ignored. This proves to be a serious problem in the story, as there are so many people who have at least some knowledge of Stewart's venality that it seems ludicrous that it hasn't come to light previously. Kenney also is weak on dialogue, particularly in scenes between Cronin and prosecutor Susan Sloane, as the two renew a love affair that had ended before the book opens. Much of their time together is used to present the reader with the story of Cronin's childhood and to hint at the fate of the weakling brother for whom he has been responsible all his life. The title's reference to the ancient collection of Babylonian law may offer some clue where things are going, but readers may be unsatisfied once they get there. After several red herrings, the story is resolved by a final revelation for which the ground-work is poorly laid, and the ""shock"" ending is dragged out long after it becomes obvious. Disappointing.