First-novelist Keech, Maryland's assistant attorney general, debuts with an antic, unsentimental urban folk tale offering genuine sociopolitical bite. Though in the midst of filing an important federal case, Sport Norris, acting chief attorney of Baltimore's Legal Assistance Society, agrees to help Charles Gage, an aging ex-alcoholic who's inherited a house from his late great-aunt. As it happens, this dwelling sits on waterfront property needed for a hush-hush condo complex backed by the city's top developers and officials. While speculators and the builder's operatives pressure Charles to sell out, Sport wages legal war against the Department of Public Welfare; for more than five years, this agency has been denying medical benefits to indigent applicants by arbitrarily assuming that their residences have basements that could yield supplemental income. Indeed, hard-core careerist Leonard Tynan, deputy director of welfare, has pangs of conscience that make it easier for him to work both sides of the street. Meanwhile, ambitious State Senator Sam (Slip) Slidell decides to ingratiate himself with the unions and joins forces with ex-nun Sister Elena, who displays an unsuspected flair for rabble-rousing on live TV. At the chaotic close, Sport settles the class-action lawsuit with Leonard; the ailing Charles makes a good deal for himself; and Slip (a better man for having loved and perhaps lost) goes on to enter the gubernatorial race. Newcomer Keech has a firm grasp of what drives upper-echelon bureaucrats, self-anointed do-gooders, media types, the monied classes, and uncivil servants, and an equally solid hold on political reality. All in all, then: an uncommonly entertaining municipal report.