When his friend and lover, Gail Zigman, is raped hours after he leaves her bed for home, Brattleboro, Vt., chief of detectives Lt. Joe Gunther is naturally wild to get on the case. He's grateful when he's assigned to head it in tandem with Todd Lefevre, an investigator for abrasive state's attorney James Dunn. At first, the evidence is slow to come in: Gail didn't have a chance to see anything but her clock, didn't recognize her assailant's voice, and can't imagine who it might have been -- unless it's town crank Jason Ryan, who had a royal set-to with Gall at the last selectmen's meeting. Joe takes his share of lumps from townsfolk who can't imagine how he'll run an unprejudiced investigation, but gradually the net closes over a suspect who not only fits the psychological profile of the rapist but comes with a bonus of circumstantial evidence: a house full of damning items, from photos of Gail to a lingerie catalogue mailed to her address. The case seems perfect until Dunn, avid for election-season publicity, leaks information that compromises the case just as Joe's at the point of an arrest. The suspect flees, of course, tries to kill Joe when he's cornered -- and then has the gall, bolstered by a deceptively quiet defender, to protest his innocence. Could Joe's seamless web of evidence have a hole? Mayor alertly turns the greatest weakness of his previous books (The Skeleton's Knee, 1993, etc.) -- telltale flaws in the evidence against his perps -- into the greatest strength of this tense procedural.