August 19, 2002 12:00 PM

By G.M. Ford

Beach book of the week

The protagonist in this hard-bitten saga of murder and redemption is maverick journalist Frank Corso, but it’s the supporting characters who steal the show. Like the Cambodian apartment manager whose politeness belies a steely resolve to avenge his daughter’s death. And the meek widow whose greed is matched only by bitter memories of her indifferent husband. Corso is an investigative journalist covering the trial of a Russian gangster, a seemingly clear-cut case that turns out to be linked to the attempted murder of girlfriend.

The plot hangs on predictable courtroom showdowns. But the story comes alive on the soggy streets of Seattle, where shadowy figures seek quick money and easy sex, and authority is a joke. “You guys dispense the law? Justice is dispensed on the ends of piers and in back alleys,” Corso tells prosecutor Renée Rogers.

As the trial progresses and characters shed their principles, Corso finds there isn’t much difference between the good guys and the bad: It’s “more like we all just got down in the swamp together and rolled around in the muck.” (Morrow, $23.95)

Bottom Line: Dark and deep

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