The death of the long-ailing Member for Bradfield launches sociologist Richard Thurston, his heir-apparent, into the political limelight. But another, more sinister death the same day -- the murder of AIDS-stricken Harvey Lingard, Richard's old student who's come home from London to a nearby village to die (though not as soon as he did) -- casts Richard's candidacy into the gravest peril. Jason Carpenter, head of the local Gay and Lesbian Front, has compiled a list of gay public figures the Front plans to out, and Richard, who's had affairs with both Harvey and Jason, heads the list. The police are convinced that Richard, who's been submitting to blackmail for years, not only killed Harvey but also offed features writer Rob Stevens, who was covering the Front's activities while trying to keep his own sexual orientation secret. Inspector Michael Thackeray is only waiting until after the election to arrest him. So it's up to Rob's editor, Laura Ackroyd, who studied with Harvey under Richard, to dig up whatever evidence she can that exonerates Richard -- and keep his fading hopes of election for Bradfield alive. Though she never decides whether Laura is a detective or a spin doctor, Hall (The Poison Pool, 1993) produces a satisfyingly ugly study of English local politics.