Political journalist turned novelist O'Brien (The Candidate's Wife, 1992) again pens a DC-based soap opera, this one about the mysterious death of a powerful Washington woman and its effect on her four friends. The five are known as the Ladies' Lunch, a group that meets monthly for networking, gossip, and mutual support. Judge Sara Webber has devoted everything to a stellar career that brings her a Supreme Court nomination. Single mother Maggie Steadman is struggling to pay the mortgage after leaving her job at the Post when a senator she ``outed'' committed suicide. Congresswoman Carol Lundgreen is discovering the effects of putting her job before her family, and the District's hottest caterer, Leona Maccoby, has a husband who is more interested in power than in her. Faith Paige was press secretary to the late President Goodspeed and then to newly inaugurated President Sayles. When her body is pulled from the Potomac, the new administration is eager to label her death a suicide. Faith's friends try to come to private terms with their loss amid a media frenzy, but it changes their lives in very public ways. Maggie is offered a six-figure book contract that will pay the bills but compromise her friends. Carol's husband leaves, and Leona discovers disturbing facts about her spouse's business dealings with Faith. It is Sara, however, who pays the biggest price, when Chief of Staff Jack Preston, desperate to keep Faith's affair with Sayles hidden, threatens her Supreme Court nomination with secrets about her father's medical practice. These influential women don't step down that easily, however. Savvy use of the media and an emotional Senate nomination hearing finally bring them justice and, more important, solidify their friendship. O'Brien weakens her effort by going over the edge into melodrama, but she manages to be both topical and engrossing by covering everything from sexual harassment to managed health care and euthanasia.