Back in St. Robert's High, Malachy Foley didn't lift a finger to stop the tormentors who were ridiculing lumpish Lambert Fleming. Now that Lammy's grown to lumbering, inarticulate adulthood, Mal tries to assuage his guilt by putting up the $40,000 for Lammy's bail bond when he's accused of assaulting his eight-year-old neighbor, Patricia Connolly. Of course, Mal's making only the first payment on his debt to Lammy; to pay in full, he'll have to dig up the evidence that'll set Lammy free from a legal system, a Chicago public, and an outraged father baying for his blood. It seems like a simple, if sordid, case: The child is either confused, or (as seems increasingly likely) lying to cover up for somebody closer to her than Lammy. But once a mutilated dog's corpse and a more direct attack on Lammy send Mal on the offensive, he finds himself sliding into a cesspool of felonies. An old-time hoodlum obviously bas it in for Lammy; the FBI seems to be concealing the involvement of Mal's favorite suspect; the few people willing to talk to Mal go into steep declines; and in short order, Mal, on the run from the cops for killing a priest, is in much worse trouble than his client. Mal's third (Half the Truth, 1996, etc.) does a manful job of tacking between fisticuffs and sensitive stuff, though violence will win out, in an operatic finale, before all the perps are finally brought to book.