Prolific veteran McBain, author of the often-impressive 87th Precinct series (as well as the schlocky Matthew Hope novels), sets his new police-procedural not in fictional Isola but in plain old Manhattan. Like the weaker 87th Precinct entries, however, this mystery combines gritty, believable cop-work with an outlandish, occasionally lurid crime-plot. Downtown, in the 5th Precinct (Chinatown, Little Italy), Detective Bryan Reardon is investigating the murder of restaurateur Ralph D'Annunzio by a couple of gunmen in ski masks. A robbery attempt? A mob hit? So it seems at first--but soon Reardon learns that D'Annunzio recently witnessed the airport murder of an enigmatic Arab, that he wound up with the Arab's briefcase, that he passed the briefcase on to his lawyer. . .and that the lawyer has also just been murdered! What's going on? Well, as the reader more or less knows (from teasing interspersed vignettes), the murder victims are all connected to a secret scheme--by an old billionaire and a ruthless N.Y. broker--to corner the silver futures market (and foment war in Saudi Arabia). So eventually Reardon, a maverick sort, is zeroing in on the evil financiers, lurching into several violent one-on-one encounters, and foiling the vile international conspiracy. Reardon's step-by-step sleuthing is solidly intriguing; the station-house/neighborhood atmosphere is vividly convincing; and Reardon's private life, though it slides into soap opera at times, is involving--with a beloved estranged wife, a daughter he longs to see, and a funky new girlfriend. All this authenticity, however, is undermined by the melodramatic excess of the implausible super-villain doings--which include (a McBain trademark) some gratuitous incest. Very much a mixed bag, then, but a fair bet for McBain fans and devotees of grim/sentimental police maneuvers.