The senior daily book reviewer for the New York Times here offers his first novel, a Washington political thriller that strains credulity well beyond the breaking point. Nick Schlafer, a libertarian Republican senator from Pennsylvania, is determined to introduce legislation decriminalizing drugs--not because he expects it to pass but in the hope that it will provide the focal point for a serious national debate. Opponents claim the real motivating force is his desire to create a memorial for his 17-year-old daughter, who died just over a year before from an apparent drug overdose, though Schlafer suspects her death was actually a murder. A subsequent threat to the life of his young son--delivered in a manner more ludicrous than menacing--initiates a series of events centering on Washington's new drug czar (who is Schlafer's childhood friend) and mysterious elements of organized crime. Any reader who doesn't figure out the villain's identity right from the start hasn't read very many potboilers. This is the sort of story in which the hero's deceased daughter leaves behind (for no discernible reason) an intricate and almost indecipherable puzzle related to her death rather than straightforward information; and in which a major figure from a prominent senator's past, long thought to be dead, is actually alive and well a few miles from the family home--and nobody knows it. Direct attempts upon Schlafer's life are made at least twice, but killing him seems to make no sense in the context of what his enemies desire. It's all improbable and silly, right down to a melodramatic ending that comes totally out of the blue. Having thrown stones for years, Lehmann-Haupt might better have stayed away from glass houses such as this one.