Cops good, bad, and retired on the mean streets of Washington, D.C.
After cocaine forces him to take early retirement from the Narcotics Branch, Frank Marr reconstitutes himself as a private investigator in recovery. When his former partner and good friend Al Luna is involved in a "bad shooting" that results in the death of a 16-year-old African-American boy, Marr joins forces with his former girlfriend Leslie Costello, an attorney, to try to mount his defense. Al swears there was a gun, but none has been located, and, on administrative leave, he is not much help; Leslie is not hopeful, and she's often in court anyway, so Marr undertakes an investigation in his own somewhat unconventional way. Getting a sandwich, Marr encounters Calvin, a young man he victimized in his last police action, and in the course of events the two forge a teacher-apprentice relationship. Calvin knows the street and some of the players, and he and Marr manage to uncover unsavory connections and suspicious coincidences but no gun. Then a neighborhood shootout turns Marr in a new direction, and one character unexpectedly provides a little leverage, and Marr and Calvin are back on the trail. Marr is frequently tempted to relapse into cocaine use, and he and Luna consume a prodigious quantity of alcohol keeping their various demons at bay, but addiction never really gets any traction in the plot, nor does the tension of working with one's estranged sweetheart.
The private eye and his apprentice have a pleasingly uneasy relationship, and the growth of their friendship is the most rewarding element in the book. Though the two don't exactly triumph over ambiguity and injustice, the unlikely buddies enliven a slightly flat thriller.