An initially impressive first novel whose brilliantly bleak accounts of Detroit's mean streets and black/white tensions are undone at the close by over-the-top plot excesses. Upwardly mobile Tony Hill, the youngest inspector ever to head the Police Department's Special Crimes Unit, has a world of troubles. It's a mayoral election year, and a brutal killer is laying waste to Detroit's black drug gangs. When word is leaked to the press that the murderer, known as the Handyman (for his macabre practice of hacking off the hands of victims), may be white, the always restive city is further polarized. The well-armed young black men who retail dope in Motown's decaying neighborhoods are unnerved as well, and they begin ignoring the truce that has held them in check. Meanwhile, one of the top territorial chieftains, Theodore Bone (a.k.a. T-Bone) accepts an opportunity to put a potent, cost-effective new form of crack cocaine called Medina on the local market. Users take to it in a big way, but Medina triggers violently aberrant behavior in some, and the resulting chaos hinders Tony's investigation of the Handyman homicides. Pressured by superiors to solve the case in a hurry, the good cop (tortured also by a guilty secret and a grudge against all whites) comes close to a breakdown. On a leave of absence after almost blowing the routine capture of a teenaged hit man, Tony stumbles on a corruption conspiracy that provides him with the clues he needs to identify Handyman--and his unlikely accomplice. Newcomer Hardwick, a criminal attorney turned screenwriter, has a firm grasp on the fatalistic attitudes of those who do battle--on both sides--in the urban drug wars. At his best, he shows a promising sense of what makes for a narrative that's genuinely dramatic, as opposed to one that's just sensational.