The pranks of a group of misfits calling themselves Hocus--they've tapped into computer systems and given the citizens of Las Piernas, California, amnesty from parking tickets and library fines--begin to escalate when they free scores of dogs and cats from an animal shelter and kill the keeper. They then clean up a blighted ghetto block by torching the buildings and the drug dealers squatting there, and finally kidnap Det. Frank Harriman from a meeting with an informant they leave dead. Their plan, as they tell it to Frank's wife, reporter Irene Kelly, and hostage negotiator Tom Cassidy, is to use Frank, who rescued two particularly dangerous Hocus-ers from another deadly kidnapping when they were only children, as a lever to get Irene to identify the Bakersfield cop who was an accomplice in their fathers' murders. So like Peter Lovesey's Edgar-winning The Summons (1995), Burke's fifth (Remember Me, Irene, 1996, etc.) is a detective story sparked by the hostage threat. But Burke leaves so many loose ends (those earlier Hocus pranks, the conspirators already in jail, a curious episode involving Frank's dead sister) and weighs her story down with so many flashbacks and crosscuts to Frank in the kidnappers' hands that it's hard to focus on Irene's ordeal--even if you believe the author's capable of killing off her heroine's husband. The result has its high points--the wary friendship that grows between Irene and Cassidy, echoed by the unexpected tenderness between Frank and one of his abductors--but is likely to leave your manicure intact.