New York City police officer Edward Byrne was shot to death on February 26, 1988, while standing guard outside the home of a witness. The cold-bloodedness of the killing and the defiant demeanor of the drug dealers involved made this case a national cause cÃ‰lÃ‰bre in the war on drugs. The story hardly needs sensationalizing; but McAlary, a Daily News columnist, does just that. Five men, all associates of Queens drug-lord Lorenzo ""Fat Cat"" Nichols, were tried and convicted for the premeditated murder of the 22-year-old cop. The brazenness of the execution and the mocking braggadocio of the accused aroused widespread anger. From floundering Mayor Edward Koch to candidate George Bush, Byrne's name was invoked repeatedly on the campaign trail. More than 10,000 law-enforcement officials attended his funeral; the trials of the crack dealers became a circus in a city inured to violence and more than familiar with the vicious nature of the drug world. Howard ""Pappy"" Mason, foremost enforcer in Fat Cat's gang, was found guilty of ordering the execution. He, like Nichols, was in jail at the time. But four underlings--Todd Scott, Scott Cobb, Phillip Copeland, and David McClary--were ambitious enough to do the deed. Less than satisfying journalism, as McAlary allows bias (describing a defense attorney as having ""a rat-like snout""; referring to one defendant as a ""dog"") and confused writing (it is difficult at times, partly because of multiple nicknames, to tell who is speaking and when; or whether a witness is giving testimony, a deposition, or an interview) to get in the way of a clear, accurate report.