Mafia doings around Kansas City--in a bloody but talky first novel that never really finds the right balance between its reporter-hero and its sprawling, ill-managed east of underworld characters. Nick Riley, paroled after a murder conviction and now a Post reporter (not unlike author Maloney), starts investigating the mob take-over of city nightclubs after a wino from the City Square area is murdered. But Nick can't get enough evidence . . . until a complicated, three-way intra-mob feud gets out of hand: the son of a murdered mobster is angry enough to start talking. So Nick now writes a story that fingers the killer; he exposes a Mafia-stooge in the state's liquor control bureau; meanwhile, more back-and-forth torture/killings ensue. Eventually, then, the prosecutor's office (also Mafia-tied) has Nick subpoenaed before a grand jury: he goes to jail--where he's stabbed--rather than reveal his sources. And finally Nick's source commits aggressive suicide when his mother is kidnapped . . . while Nick's new bride, parole officer Gina, is killed in a Mafia-related shootout: at the fadeout Nick is seen posing as a mental case in order to infiltrate an Arkansas asylum and track down a clue to Gina's murder. In all: busy, unfocused, unoriginal melodramatics--with a few moments of newsroom authenticity, a faceless hero, and static stretches of plot-exposition in between the routine rub-outs.