Documentarist Maggie MacGowen has just decided to turn her latest film, a study of Los Angeles kids gone wrong, from another pro forma denunciation of the uncaring system that failed the kids to an unsparing look at the teens who tortured and killed Pedro Alvaro, the gardener who, flush with his paycheck, tried to pick up a pair of teenaged welfare mothers. It's a big change and a big commitment, and she doesn't need the unsettling news that she's just had a cash offer on the house she once shared with her magnetic, untrustworthy husband Scotty back in San Francisco. The time is right to sell the house, since Maggie's dancing daughter Casey is getting ready to move out, and Maggie's squeeze, Mike Flint of the LAPD, is only 67 days from the new horizons of retirement. But the sale doesn't feel quite right, maybe because Scotty pops up and appeals to Maggie to sell it to him, maybe because some of Scotty's most suspicious old friends from Vietnam have been making news themselves. Khanh Nguyen has just been robbed by her cousin (though he never reported a robbery to the police, and the undocumented, accused Bao Ngo has vanished without leaving footprints on a single database), and Minh Tam, the cousin she sent Maggie looking for after the robbery, has disappeared too. What's going on here will be obvious to everybody but Maggie, who's understandably distracted by all those domestic shakeups. What's meant to be the main mystery in Maggie's fifth case (77th Street Requiem, 1995, etc.) is shoveled mostly into the last few chapters, completely upstaged by the calmly horrific series of confessions documenting the Pedro Alvaro killing.