Leuci's first police procedural set away from N.Y.C. (where he served as a cop for 20 years: Captain Butterfly, Odessa Beach, etc.) turns out to be his best--an acrid, tangled tale of a cop's hunt for a crazed killer among the high and low of the nation's capital. Scott Ancelet, 40, is the D.C. detective who swears to get the ``beast'' who cut the throat of an unidentified teenage male prostitute, then masturbated on the body and left it in a local park. Aided by his partner, ``Big Mo'' Parks, Scott turns for clues to his main snitch, Cotton Mouth Johnson, an aging hooker-turned- crack-dealer/addict. Cotton can tell Scott little, but her pathetic, doomed struggle to escape a sadistic drug kingpin (to whom she owes money--the story's major subplot) compellingly burrows the action down into D.C.'s criminal underworld, detailed with a stinging grit that contrasts well with the upscale splendors enjoyed by beautiful black councilwoman Tamron Highseat and her husband, Philip--who finally identify the victim as Tamron's no- good nephew. Scott, a cop who lives on the edge--smoking and wenching his way into major heart trouble--instantly falls in lust for Tamron, even as Big Mo falls compassionately in love with Cotton. Amidst this smoky intrigue, violence flares out in a second, blackly comic subplot involving a pot dealer whose wife harpoons a rookie detective--and then the intrigue rushes back, denser still, as Scott follows the killer's trail into a den of pedophiles headed by Philip Highseat and a politically powerful contra general--and into an ultraviolent climax. Despite the familiar cast--the burned-out cop, the gold- hearted whore, etc.--a fast and nasty tale, told in snappy prose and reeking with the hard truths and stink of the streets.