Satanic child-abusers, the mob, and a deranged killer wreak memorable havoc in this complex crackerjack thriller, Tanenbaum's third based on his stint as a Manhattan Assistant D.A. during the 70's. Tanenbaum's alter ego, Butch Karp (Depraved Indifference; 1987; No Lesser Plea, 1987) returns here, as does his colorful band of legal sidekicks--including tough and sexy lover Marlene Ciampi and slobby pal Ray Guma. This time, though, Marlene and Ray get near equal billing to Butch, beginning with the case of Felix Tighe, a sociopathic con-man whose knifing of a cop sets the story on its edgy, violent course and leads inexorably to Tighe's eventual wanton murder of a woman and her son. Counterpointed to Karp's prosecution of Tighe is a second, more complicated case--involving a mobster turned canary--that allows Guma to flash his street smarts during tense manipulations of Brooklyn Mafiosi. The novel's unifying and stomach-churning core case, however, stars Marlene, who on a coworker's complaint looks into possible child-sex abuse at a posh daycare center--a center revealed to the reader as a hotbed of Satanic worship, complete with child rape and sacrifice. Marlene soon connects the center to a rash of brutal child-murders; enraged, her judgment further clouded by lust for the seductive cop who's working the case with her, she hounds the center's domineering director, Irma Dean, despite pressure to lay off from involved city bigwigs. Striking back, Dean kidnaps Marlene and chains her in a cellar guarded over by Dean's monstrously huge and infantile son; Marlene's desperate struggle to escape--and Karp and Guma's frantic race to find her--climax the intense action. A three-ring extravaganza of crime and punishment that's as New York-authentic as Karp's beloved knishes. Tanenbaum's best yet.