After debuting with In the Shadow of the Peacock (not reviewed), the author launches a series featuring 31-year-old Harlem ex-cop Mali Anderson, who was fired after only two years on the force. Sick of fellow officer Terry Keenan's lewd harassment, Mali had thrown a punch at him. Now, two years later, she's nearing a master's degree, living with her music-teacher father Jeffrey, a bassist who still plays the jazz clubs, and caring for her 11-year- old orphaned nephew Alvin. But Mali's quiet life erupts into chaos when she rescues Alvin's classmate Morris from kidnappers, who speed off in their limousine, leaving on the street the body of Erskin Harding, director of Harlem's world-famous Uptown Children's Chorus. Within days, the chorus's smooth, Wall Streetconnected fund-raiser Gary Mark is another murder victim. Mali is determined to find Harding's killer despite a raft of scary deterrents: threatening phone calls; concerned warnings from her new love, Police Detective Tad Honeywell; a near-fatal attack on her librarian friend Deborah, recruited to do research on Mark; a trashed apartment; an attack on Mali's father; and the disappearance of beautician Viv, a jilted girlfriend of Erskin's disreputable half-brother Johnnie. Meantime, corrupt cops and massive drug deals lurk behind the scene. But Mali, against all odds, survives and triumphs. A criss-cross of characters and incidents may muddy the plot, but the author's picture of Harlem's streets, institutions, language, and stress-ridden everyday life carries an unmistakable ring of authenticity. A gripping, raw, and suspenseful introduction to a resourceful heroine and the world she lives in.