By Bruce Fretts
Updated January 19, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

A potent cocktail of pulp fiction and inside-the-Beltway politics, the latest novel from attorney-turned-author Meltzer (The Tenth Justice) follows White House lawyer Michael Garrick as he falls for the President’s thrill-junkie daughter, Nora Hartson. As Garrick’s affair with the First Femme Fatale ensnares him in a glue trap of blackmail and murder, Meltzer serves up deliciously hard-boiled prose (”she shoots me a look that I can feel in my pants”) along with cold facts about life in the West Wing (air pressure is increased to protect the Prez from a bio-attack, which ”by definition makes the White House the most high-pressured place to work”). Starting with a grabber Secret Service-chase opening, Counsel maintains pedal-to-the-metal pacing for nearly 500 pages, all the way to its pleasingly melodramatic climax. A-