Compact crime novel, tough as week-old steak, about bookies and cops crawling, clashing, and dripping blood in Chicago's filthy underbelly. First-novelist Martins, following in the footsteps of Elmore Leonard and George V. Higgins, shows a real flair for sharp, slangy dialogue and for catching the curious alliances that can form between lawmen and outlaws, brothers (and sisters) beneath the skin. The F.B..I. mounts a major sting operation, code name Operation Clothesline, against the Chicago bookmaking racket. Agents Frank Thorne, a streetwise vet, and Mary Agnes McCaskey, a lovely office drone, team up on the bust. Disguised as an investment broker, Thorne sets up an account with low-level bookie and nice guy Sonny Greco. Scores of agents in other cities meanwhile do the same with other bookies; the F.B.I. is using a computer (and fiddling with the Las Vegas line) to win its bets and empty the mob's treasury. Numerous subplots ensue as bullets fly, zippers drop, and nostrils turn white with coke; Thorne beds McCaskey, befriends Greco, entraps a treacherous cop, and ends up wrapping up the Clothesline while springing a minor sting on his Bureau employers. Martins orchestrates these gritty events into a minimalist storyline with no fat and considerable flair. Among the lowlife portrayed, especially memorable are Greco, Pizza Sal, Johnny Ross (known as Johnny Roses, ""because that's what he always comes up smelling like""), and other mob figures, who talk in a clever, dense patois: "" 'Don't go getting air-headed on those pills.' 'Valium Lite,' Sally said. 'Only shuts down half a lobe.'"" A raw shot of the Chicago crime scene, straight up.