Laura Di Palma can be hazardous to your health. Just ask Jocelyn Kinsley, the labor lawyer Laura consulted about suing former fellow associate Steve Sayres, who's been talking her corporate clients out of her San Francisco practice: Jocelyn is shot dead before Laura's eyes. Can't ask her? Well, then, ask Connie Gold, the publicity-hungry district attorney Laura's been trading accusations with ever since they first locked horns over the arrest of Laura's old school friend Brad Rommel for murdering his departing girlfriend: Gold's also shot during a rancorous (very rancorous) meeting with Laura. Sadly, Gold lives on to wangle Laura's arrest for conspiracy to murder her, and Laura gets jailed, on a different floor from her client, in Hillsdale, the town she grew up in (``nothing but a banana republic,'' she now decides). If her uncle Henry weren't mayor, there's no telling where her defense of Brad Rommel--and her quest for the meaning of Jocelyn Kinsley's cryptic last words (``designer crimes'')--would get her. Two knotty cases, some fine detection, a satisfying explosion when Laura puts all the pieces together, and an unusually honest meditation on going home again. Laura's fifth appearance (Face Value, 1994, etc.) may be her best one yet.