A well-padded tale of a police sting as McNamara--the San Jose police chief who's been dogging Joseph Wambaugh's tracks (The First Directive, 1984; Fatal Command, 1987)--promotes his own blue messiah, Finney Fraleigh, to acting chief of Silicon City. The Blue Mirage is a bar that Fraleigh's staff--urged on by fair-haired boy Paul English and the Block, neckless and nerveless--has set up to trap and tape thieves looking for a fence. Only two weeks after serving their first beer, Fraleigh's boys call him over to watch shady lawyer Dick Barry unload a $5000 negotiable bearer bond--because Barry's actually Richard Bartlow, whose brother Duane is one of the five city supervisors who'll decide whether Fraleigh's job becomes permanent. The sting's got other problems, too: Nola Henderson, Fraleigh's main booster among the five supervisors (Fraleigh wonders whether she'll ever come back to his place for her underpants), is dead-set against dangerous operations; two of the cops on the detail are videotaped as they're making love on the premises; and the Blue Mirage is threatened by Fraleigh's main rival for chief, no-good Captain Fritz Gerhart, and by crazed coker Hector Gonzales, determined to waste Det. Nunzio Papa, who almost nabbed him in the department's last sting. All these complications make for a loose, engaging story. But compared to Fraleigh the other cops are just shadows, and when a line on those bearer bonds takes Fraleigh to the Big Apple to get evidence against the Bartlow brothers (and, incidentally, against Nola's father Judge Henderson) and to confront his past demons (his NYPD father killed himself after young rookie Fraleigh exposed corruption in his department), readers not smitten with tough, sexy Capt. Stephanie Ferrari, Fraleigh's New York contact, will long for sunny California and the promised bloody finale. A solid police caper under the fat. Now that Fraleigh's made chief, here's hoping he lightens up.