Despite a notably unpromising debut (Capitol Offense, 1996), US Senator Mikulski carries on with a series that pits a fictive counterpart against homicidal freebooters in and out of Washington. To win the Senate seat to which she'd been appointed on an interim basis by Pennsylvania's governor, Eleanor (Norie) Gorzack must best loathsome reactionary Hank Dugdale, who's backed by a militant umbrella organization called the Values Coalition. Before she can get her election effort in gear, however, the accidental lawmaker is injured when a Keystone State rally turns mysteriously violent. Shortly thereafter, Congressman Bob Bercolini (who had confidential information to share with Norie) turns up dead in his own district, an apparent mugging victim. Muddling on, the senatorial candidate (a Vietnam war widow known for her support of MIA causes) stumbles across evidence of environmental chicanery in rural resort areas of Pennsylvania, where the purity of lake water is important to the tourist trade. Distracted by campaign exigencies (fund-raising, image-making, issue-framing, media interviews, polling, etc.), she barely notices that other bodies are piling up at an alarming rate. But Tom Carver, the District cop whom the White House made Norie's minder, is keeping count. After the election, which Norie wins handily, he helps his charge identify the guilty party as a member of her inner circle, whose financial difficulties induced him to cast a blind eye on the illegal dumping of radioactive waste in remote venues. A few set pieces on congressional hearings and other aspects of partisan politics aside: another exercise in capital--that is, Beltway--punishment.