Sounding like an uncensored outtake from vintage Hill Street Blues, this introduction to ex-stripper, ex-cop, Orange County forensic specialist Smokey Brandon is tough, hip, visceral, and lusty enough to make both Wambaugh and Spillane sit up and wince. The case that Smokey leaves her lab to solve: the gunning down of college kid Jerry Dwyer, who sold her coffee every morning at his parents' convenience store. The Dugdale brothers are picked up on suspicion and released, and in the parking lot they spot Smokey and her friend Patricia. Then--coincidentally or intentionally?--one of the Dugdales moves into Patricia's apartment complex and begins romancing her. Then she disappears and Smokey, with no back up, tracks her to Vegas--where the boys, their behemoth mom, a drugged- out Patricia, and a coked-out cutie are all holed up in filthy, redneck splendor, wielding tire irons when the ammo runs out. A macho heroine, with a ragged love-life (a long-standing affair with her former boss; a one-nighter with a co-worker; etc.), a soured past, and an unpredictable future. Authentic-sounding forensic nitty-gritty, autopsy protocol, and so on--but that jangling, be-bop narrative begins to grate after a while.