Lehrer's first novel is a predictable but absorbing melodrama--a mother/daughter tragedy set against the heady background of Washington, D.C., powerbroking. For three years, narrator Courtney Patterson has been employed as assistant to powerful political columnist Sarah Adams. One of the perks of Courtney's job is that it gives her access to the glamourous goings-on of the Washington politicos; one of the disadvantages is that it involves her in the stormy relationship that Sarah shares with her daughter, Leslie--a sullen, 17-year-old, as plain as her mother is beautiful. Leslie is oppressed by Sarah's overweening control (Sarah is the kind of mother who drags Leslie to a beautician, then declares loudly, in a crowded salon, that the haircut she forced upon her daughter ""makes her look fat""). When Leslie decides to leave Sarah to live with her father, Sarah is crushed--and Courtney is in the middle. Then, Leslie is suddenly murdered, and the action shifts (jarringly) from family drama to murder mystery. The rest concerns Sarah's downfall, Courtney's loyalty and eventual letting go. The author is married to TV journalist Jim Lehrer, and so to insiders, this may be some sort of roman Ã¡ clef. But for all the issues (love, work, loyalty) touched upon, the story never settles clown long enough to make its point, either as psychological study, Washington exposÃ‰ or suspense yarn.