Former death-row attorney Blum debuts--with yet another down-at-the-heels lawyer, another uncooperative client, another hopeless case. As he stands talking to premier topless dancer Sally Sutton in the parking lot of the Mustang Club, LAPD vice cop Joe Richards is shot three times. The cops, led by hotheaded SWAT specialist Jim Rowinski and the D.A.'s inside man, Lt. Thomas Gallagher, naturally call on the man Sally identifies--gang- banger Juan Thomas--and arrest him when they find the murder gun on the premises; and the D.A.'s chief trial deputy, Howard Ainsworth, duly selects a sacrificial lamb to defend him. The lucky lawyer is John Solomon, Ainsworth's predecessor in the chief deputy's spot, now (since the brief, incendiary affair with Mary Delgado, the arresting officer on an earlier high-profile case, got him tossed out of the office) perusing his briefs over long liquid lunches. There's not a chance in the world that Solomon, who's shrunk into a painfully inept litigator who comes out of every cross-examination with more egg on his face, can get his unsavory client acquitted, and within just a few pages he's already blown off the preliminary hearing and is slouching to trial. But wait! Could it be that Mary Delgado's back in the picture again, helping Solomon dig up the dirt on her buddies in the D.A.'s office? Could Joe Richards have been killed because he knew too much about his own department? Could Sally Sutton be lying as part of a police cover-up? Could Ainsworth, running hard for D.A. himself, have an Achilles' heel--his white-hot hatred of (gasp) ``secular humanism'' as the true villain behind the epidemic violence in LA? First-novelist Blum sketches out a scenario of public corruption and private redemption as preposterous as it is predictable. Move to strike, Your Honor. Incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial.