What a nasty kettle of fish Gaitano has ladled for Chicago's Special Victims unit this time. There's Ray McCauley, the trash-talking radio jock with a gambling problem; Tommy Malardi, the rookie bagman who beats McCauley half to death and then takes his personal check for his gambling debts; Kevin Wrisberg, McCauley's creditor, who's scouting Tommy as his regular help; and King Youngy, the gang-banger who can't wait to dance at Wrisberg's wake. The whole house of cards comes tumbling down when crime boss Pete Lemelli orders some pressure brought to bear on Jimmy Duette, a safecracker who's holding out on him, and one of the dirty Chicago cops who's torturing Duette goes a little too far. But what's Sgt. Jake Phillips of Special Victims (Mr. X, 1995, etc.) doing in this kettle along with the other lowlifes? Even while his marriage is crumbling and insatiable magazine writer Dabney Delaney-Hinckle is peeking beneath his sheets, he's taking meetings with bent cops, battling his old buddy Lt. Mondo Mondello, head of Special Victims, over procedures and ethics, and hiding the tape recording he made of Duette's last words--a recording guaranteed to make virtually everybody in the cast rich, dirty, or dead. Wisely cutting himself loose from the Fu Manchu villains who marred his first two books, Gaitano goes the distance in this hydra-headed tale of Chicago's finest. Only the predictable climax is a letdown.