A hard-pressed female cop battles criminals in and out of the NYPD in this latest of Leuci’s savvy police dramas (The Snitch, 1997, etc.). When the Chief of Detectives gives his lead investigator a job to do, she does it, no questions asked. That doesn’t mean questions don’t occur to Captain Nora Ritter. Dispatch a senior officer to check out a loan shark? Something doesn’t add up. Pretty soon, though, the pieces begin to fit together. It’s love, Nora learns, top-brass style. Blaze Longo, the loan shark, has been leaning on small-time gambler Alfred Nieri, who just happens to be the dad of Roseann Palumbo, who just happens to be the Chief’s main squeeze. Roseann wants the loan shark to leave daddy alone, and what Roseann wants, Roseann gets—hence Captain Nora’s trip to the mean streets of Brooklyn’s Red Hook District. But Blaze Longo isn’t just a loan shark; he’s an authentic sociopath. He cuts off ears, for instance, for the simple joy of it and has a portable collection of his trophies available for instant display. Moreover, there’s a scam he’s running with his sociopathic opposite number—a veteran cop, much decorated, but every bit Longo’s match in savagery. For the sake of her career, not to mention her very survival, Nora has to smash this unholy alliance. To help in the task, she forms her own alliance with Nick Ossman, an unemployed actor who’s known Blaze since they were Red Hook kids. Ad hoc and a little desperate, it’s a pairing that turns out to be surprisingly effective, paying off with a personal bonus as well. Leuci’s Nick and Nora are as far from Dashiell Hammett’s as grit is from wit. Still, his duo here has undeniable appeal, strong enough to drive this inelegant but compelling novel.