First-novelist Ludwig has written for TV dramas like Police Story, and this rat-a-tat-tat gallery of L.A. seaminess and sentimentality has that spitty-gritty police-procedural ambiance--plus all the raunch that, even these days, wouldn't make it to the small screen. A neglected Beverly Hills tot wanders off, leaving cop Brenner and colleagues no clues except the utter disgracefulness of sadistic, money-mad Dad, ""itchy cunt"" Mom, and the bisexual hired help (""A housewife and mother who fucks like a rabbit. . . and a double-gaited gardener who wears tight pants with the fastest zipper in the west""). Wee Bobby's body will turn up on its own--after some false hopes--so meanwhile the flatfeet are free to ride around freaky L.A. neighborhoods and zero in on assorted lowlifes (""We got your ass, scumbag"")--child-abusers, burglars, sex offenders, and, for comic relief, an exhibitionist and a pair of gullible Tijuana hookers. And, scattered throughout, divorced Brenner's memories of his immigrant father, worries about his soon-to-retire partner (""He is me and I am he""), and worries about his alienation from his weekend son--all giving rise to such as: ""Brenner wept for all of them and for himself."" Ludwig deploys a battery of narrative change-ups and curves to keep you awake, and occasionally the jokey-jivey radio in Brenner's mind produces a quickie worth stopping for (his furnished room: ""Goldilocks must have been the interior decorator. Not too much, not too little, just right""). But, despite all the pop-song fragments and pronouncements on ""the nature of California living,"" this shapeless line-up is really not so much Wambaugh manquÃ‰ as Dell Shannon with her drawers pulled down.