Cincinnati newspaperman DeBrosse's murky and fairly mediocre first novel features Rick Decker, a Cincinnati Eagle reporter assigned to the River Queen fire story. Killed on board the sleaze steamer were: porn entrepreneur Al Greenburg, some local star athletes, and a kitchen worker, who saw a badly scarred man running away just before all hell broke loose. Arson? Why? Rick is only marginally interested until a reporter friend is killed; an arson investigator is discredited, then disappears; and town nabobs start inviting Rick to dinner parties. Eventually, the solution will hinge on ""the pendulum""--a neo-fascist, quasi-religious cult whose members include cops, lawyers, and elected city officials, all wanting to clean up the town without obeying tiresome legalities. Rick's proof comes from the arsonist himself, who is soon messily dispatched, while Rick is saved in the nick by a doctor/girlfriend--and his Eagle editor sallies forth to pick up the evidence (a tape). So-so newspaper atmosphere, but average-enough fare for undemanding readers--particularly if they've left and loathed Cincinnati.