August 25, 2003 12:00 PM

By Gregg Hurwitz

Like many a thriller writer, Hurwitz begins with a familiar premise, but don’t let that keep you away. U.S. marshal Tim Rackley and his wife. Dray, a California sheriff’s deputy, learn that their 7-year-old daughter Ginny has been raped and murdered. When Ginny’s killer is caught and (of course) set free on a technicality, Tim hangs up his badge and his moral doubts to join a vigilante club.

The result isn’t as crude as Death Wish, though. Tim’s crew is a group of former legal and criminal justice professionals who have a well-designed plan. Hurwitz makes his characters vivid, and he is so steeped in the details of police procedure that you can practically smell the doughnuts. The Kill Clause is like a literary Law & Order, without the commercials. (Morrow, $24.95) BOTTOM LINE: Killer read

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