A novel of local politics that offers easy, satisfying answers--and then snatches them away. For 10 of his 16 years, David has been fascinated and entertained by the wildlife in a marsh near his small town. When he learns that a mall is about to be built over the swamp, he is horrified; with the aid of friends and an aging lawyer, he persuades the city council to delay construction on ecological grounds, then mounts a successful campaign to have the mall voted down in the next election: democracy in action. This is the point where other books on the theme end; here, the developers suddenly come back with a proposal to fence a couple of acres of swamp as a ""preserve,"" and build the mall anyway. The council accepts without a murmur, and David, unable to rekindle any popular interest in the issue, is left with nothing but that shafted feeling. As in the author's Burg-o-rama Man, believably drawn characters and logical plot development make for an above-average story, but readers are likely to be puzzled by the abrupt, harsh conclusion.