After an opening chapter that seems to promise an edged, inside look at the TV-documentary business, this first novel by journalist Leamer (Playing for Keeps in Washington) becomes a small-scale, basically routine investigation thriller, textured a bit by some gritty local color. Bob Branker of Century--something like Dan Rather of 60 Minutes--is furious when assigned to go to Peru on a long-term story (he'll be off the air for two weeks), but once he's down there with old buddies Marty Tablin (maverick producer) and George Reed (brawling cameraman), his investigative juices start flowing. The story: to find out what happened to a surfer couple and an idealistic social worker (who happens to be the daughter of Branker's network chairman)--all three of whom have vanished in Peru. The newsmen, aided by a smart, chic local lady (soon Branker's lover), quickly guess that the missing surfers were dealers involved with Lima's cocaine/decadence set--a suspicion confirmed by interviews with prisoners in foul Lurigancho prison. And, despite interference from the repressive local government and orders to desist from the network, they follow the cocaine trail to a big brothel, to the female half of that missing couple, a rebel-turned-hooker who comes out of hiding to Tell All: the rebels have been handling the cocaine trade, she says (helping the upper class to self-destruct), but now the government has taken over the drug traffic. And she leads them all into the mountain jungle--where they find the grave of the social worker. . . and discover not only Peruvian government involvement in the cocaine trade--but also US involvement, including that of Branker's own network! From there on, it's all shootouts, escapes (leaping over rivers, rescues by helicopter), and daring broadcasts of the Truth--a scenario that's much too clichÃ‰-heroic for its own good. Thin characters, convincing locales, predictable story--uneven action-adventure overall, with just a very slight boost from the glimpses of TV journalists at work.