Compare today's headlines about drugs and local politics in Washington, D.C., to this stirring fantasy of downtrodden lawmen bagging the big boys against long odds and you'll see how Pease, a former federal prosecutor in D.C., can claim in a prefatory note that his fast novel isn't a roman Ã clef. When cop-killer Adrian Wheatley confesses to another murder in the alley behind kingmaker Milton Higgs' posh home--a murder nobody can find any trace of--and then is found dead in his cell the next morning, D.A. Michael Holden and his long-suffering girlfriend Katy know that he's sitting on dynamite. Michael's discovery of half a dozen money-laundering accounts doesn't give him enough to go up against Higgs, but the case heats up when Higgs' bookkeeper, Elizabeth Henning, decides to start feeding him information on the vanished victim (a St. Thomas private eye named Regent Godoy, with ties to the last governor of the island); on Higgs' large-scale drug dealing; and on a turncoat within the D.C. police department. Despite his suspicions of Henning--why is she suddenly so helpful?--Michael, together with retiring cop Eddie Nickles and his young partner Jimmy Leggett, uses her tips, combined with info he squeezes out of crooked surveillance man Aaron Yozkowitz (""the Wizard of Yoz""), to follow the trail of dollars and drugs to St. Thomas. He'll be sorry he made the trip, though--before returning to D.C. for the climactic bust, which goes as expected (""438.6 pounds of 94% pure heroin seized and not a shot fired"") but still packs a nice surprise. A solid debut--with an especially good feel for the difficulties of doing your job when ""the politics, the back-stabbing, even the petty little corruptions. . .are the system.