Picks and Pans Review: Limited Partner

updated 12/17/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/17/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Mike Lupica

Sports columnist Lupica's fictional creation is Peter Finley, a sharp-witted, Red Sox-passionate, crime-solving, local-access cable newshound.

In this third novel featuring Finley, he is looking into the suspicious drug OD of a friend who was an affable man-about-town, saloon owner and former network sports publicist. The investigation puts him squarely on the wrong end of a few fists and varied blunt objects and takes him inside a drug rehab to talk to a suspended Mets pitching phenom.

The usual Lupica style in these mysteries has depended heavily on relentless quips and clever ripostes. The nonstop badinage tended to make the first Finley outing, Dead Air, delicious, and the second, Extra Credits, dismally labored. The wordplay has been sealed back a bit this time. Instead, Lupica has channeled that energy into tighter plotting, more substantial characters, vivid appreciation of his Manhattan locales and better descriptive passages: "There were two women at the table, along with a big man with a mustache, and another man, smaller, plump and dark, with a boy's fat cheeks and a high forehead, and his shiny black hair brushed straight back to his shoulders. He looked like he had the right bloodlines to be part of Menudo, and seemed the right age, but had eaten himself out of the group."

Things flow smoothly. The conclusion is more talky and tangled than the plot really warrants or needs. Still, you get the sense for the first time in one of these Finley books that, unlike many local TV personalities, this big lug may be with us for a while. (Villard, $18.95)

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