A CITY ON A HILL by GEORGE V. HIGGINS 256 pages. Knopf. $7.95.

Cavanaugh's wife leaves him at the end of this political novel. She says she will be spending her time in Los Angeles at her public relations job. "All that'll console me," says Cavanaugh, who has a granitic and totally unsupported optimism, "is that you'll be able to keep your tan." The lady replies: "The pool at the apartment is too close to the road." That is a George Higgins touch. No minor mercies admitted.

A City on a Hill is a departure for...

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