Hardwick fulfills the promise of his first novel (Cold Medina, 1996) with a chilly tale of a black district attorney on the run in Detroit's back alleys. When Harris Yancy, Motown's popular mayor, is knifed to death at the end of an evening with Ramona Lake, his part-time mistress, she breaks away from two ski-masked assassins, carrying the small black suitcase with which she fought them off. Picked up as the designated fall gal in the high-profile killing, Mona tells her story to Jesse King, an up-and-coming star in the prosecutor's office. Against the wishes of his superiors, Jesse launches a quiet investigation that convinces him Mona is innocent. Before he can get her off the hook, however, Jesse himself is framed for murder. Breaking Mona out of the hospital ward where she's being detained, he takes it on the lam in search of the suitcase whose contents may clear them both. Unsure where to turn, Jesse follows Mona's lead. To his chagrin, the street-smart Mona reestablishes contact with her sometime homies, a vicious gang (the Nasty Girls) that's trying to gain a piece of the inner-city drug action. All but lost in the bleak, nihilistic ghetto world of his youth, Jesse stays in touch with a loyal cop who keeps him up to date on behind-the-scenes maneuverings in the political vacuum created by Yancy's untimely demise. With a line on mayoral wannabes and the rival interests that are bankrolling them, he has a better idea of who might be responsible for the slayings. Before Jesse can act on these insights, though, he's not only got to recover the elusive suitcase but elude well-informed hit men, survive the lawless jungle of the 'hood, and bring Mona back alive to corroborate his story. Gritty urban fare with a welcome sense of irony--and an appreciation of how little separates a community's powerbrokers from its criminal classes.