A dark, gritty first novel featuring lawyer Seymour Lipp, who reluctantly agrees to defend his boyhood nemesis, Junior Constantino, on drug charges and becomes, to his grief, Junior's court-appointed keeper. Seymour finds Junior work as his ramshackle building's janitor--a job Junior mostly ignores until the arrival of Emily Levine, the bored wife of a new tenant. When Mrs. Levine is murdered, Junior is the prime suspect--they were having an affair. Meanwhile: Seymour and Junior's sister Rosalie have rekindled their own romance; Junior's live-in lover Lois, a whore and a junkie, is working the streets again; and Eddie Gomez, the other janitor in the building, may have raped Mrs. Levine when she was a young girl (while he was working as her father's gardener). The question of whether Junior did it is less interesting than what he did to Seymour in their enmeshed pasts--namely, mangle Seymour's foot with a cherry bomb when they were kids and, later on, convince Seymour to rob a jewelry store (when the alarm went off, Junior took the fall for both of them, as penance). Now, the trial and downbeat solution leave it all too clear that Seymour and Junior may never be rid of each other--or their various guilts. Pungent dialogue and full-bodied characterizations make this a better-than-usual first effort. Not, however, for the dainty-hearted, with its cynical morality and sexual taunts.