We read of captains of industry who seek refuge in the cloister from the howling vacuum of success. Eugene Kennedy, once a Catholic priest but now married and a professor of psychology at Loyola University in Chicago, is part of the traffic that's headed the other way. Among his 25 books is a biography of the late Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, which may help account for the rich supply of city hall insights so exuberantly displayed in this latest work.

"Queen Bee," his second novel, is the fictional story of the first woman mayor of Chicago, and how she got there. The Making of the Mayor, so to speak. You soon stop searching for a resemblance to Chicago's real-life mayor, Jane Byrne. I doubt if she'll want to claim she's any kin.

On first inspection, Ann Marie O'Brien, as the red-haired mayor-to-be is named, is the compleat well-brought-up graduate of Our Lady of Peace College, "Virgin Acres," as it's called by the uncouth. Her Army captain husband is missing in action in the jungles of an unnamed land; and, as the book opens, she appears in the city council chamber to receive a plaque for her work with other MIA wives.

At first glance, she has a disarming directness that briefly leads you to suppose she will be swept to the throne in one of those sweet triumphs of purity over corruption. You soon realize she has all the innocence of a cobra. Her gradual transformation, as the addictive juices of power begin to course through her veins and obliterate those vague twinges that once passed for decent instincts, turns out to be far more absorbing than you might expect.

The same could be said for the city hall denizens and assorted spear-carriers who take part in the plot. There is Francis ("The Rosary") Rafferty, who drapes pious verbiage over every thought, and somehow manages to turn the small patches of land he's acquired into "valuable tracts on which important buildings were to be erected."

Alderman Sam Noto, from a near West Side ward, "felt comfortable in artificial fibers and they matched his spirit and style very well." Ann Marie's cousin, the "sleek and knowing" Msgr. Morgan Fitzmaurice, became vicar general of the Archdiocese of Chicago after a career of running Catholic cemeteries.

Compared to most around him, old Mayor Thomas H. Cullen, the consummate politician ("No entrails ever told witch doctors more than Cullen's guts told him about what and how to do things"), seems almost lovable. He gives Ann Marie her start up the ladder for his own purposes, and she returns the compliment--with a twist.

Mark Richler, the mayor's scholarly Jewish adviser, seems the most decent of the lot (after police Capt. Paul Vincent) and eventually is sacked unjustly. (Punishment lands evenhandedly on good guys and bad in Kennedy's scheme.)

At first they all seem like cardboard cutouts from Central Casting. But soon, like a squeamish spectator at a bullfight, you are caught, with reluctant fascination, in the ever-shifting dynamics of betrayal and greed that give direction to their days.

Front and center in the seamy tableau is Paul Michael Martin, the television reporter, whose commentaries and weekly gossip column can make or destroy careers; who trades favors for money from Richard Barone, the blue-chinned financier and real estate speculator who has built a fortune by manipulating Chicago aldermen and bending the laws when he doesn't break them.

To "P.M.," the breasts of a passing secretary are "like tumbling melons escaping the grocer's hands." Lechery is his obsession, hobby and stock in trade, and it is not long before Ann Marie is drawn into his treacherous embrace. But their close encounters--first in a seedy hotel suite maintained by P.M.'s office and later in the apartment loaned to him by Richard Barone, who naturally has them The Power & the Gory Book World QUEEN BEE. By Eugene Kennedy. (Doubleday. 330 pp. $17.95) Reviewed by Anne Chamberlin

The reviewer is a Washington writer.

We read of captains of industry who seek refuge in the cloister from the howling vacuum of success. Eugene Kennedy, once a Catholic priest but now married and a professor of psychology at Loyola University in Chicago, is part of the traffic that's headed the other way. Among his 25 books is a biography of the late Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, which may help account for the rich supply of city hall insights so exuberantly displayed in this latest work.

"Queen Bee," his second novel, is the fictional story of the first woman mayor of Chicago, and how she got there. The Making of the Mayor, so to speak. You soon stop searching for a resemblance to Chicago's real-life mayor, Jane Byrne. I doubt if she'll want to claim she's any kin.

On first inspection, Ann Marie O'Brien, as the red-haired mayor-to-be is named, is the compleat well-brought-up graduate of Our Lady of Peace College, "Virgin Acres," as it's called by the uncouth. Her Army captain husband is missing in action in the jungles of an unnamed land; and, as the book opens, she appears in the city council chamber to receive a plaque for her work with other MIA wives.

At first glance, she has a disarming directness that briefly leads you to suppose she will be swept to the throne in one of those sweet triumphs of purity over corruption. You soon realize she has all the innocence of a cobra. Her gradual transformation, as the addictive juices of power begin to course through her veins and obliterate those vague twinges that once passed for decent instincts, turns out to be far more absorbing than you might expect.

The same could be said for the city hall denizens and assorted spear-carriers who take part in the plot. There is Francis ("The Rosary") Rafferty, who drapes pious verbiage over every thought, and somehow manages to turn the small patches of land he's acquired into "valuable tracts on which important buildings were to be erected."

Alderman Sam Noto, from a near West Side ward, "felt comfortable in artificial fibers and they matched his spirit and style very well." Ann Marie's cousin, the "sleek and knowing" Msgr. Morgan Fitzmaurice, became vicar general of the Archdiocese of Chicago after a career of running Catholic cemeteries.

Compared to most around him, old Mayor Thomas H. Cullen, the consummate politician ("No entrails ever told witch doctors more than Cullen's guts told him about what and how to do things"), seems almost lovable. He gives Ann Marie her start up the ladder for his own purposes, and she returns the compliment -- with a twist.

Mark Richler, the mayor's scholarly Jewish adviser, seems the most decent of the lot (after police Capt. Paul Vincent) and eventually is sacked unjustly. (Punishment lands evenhandedly on good guys and bad in Kennedy's scheme.)

At first they all seem like cardboard cutouts from Central Casting. But soon, like a squeamish spectator at a bullfight, you are caught, with reluctant fascination, in the ever-shifting dynamics of betrayal and greed that give direction to their days.

Front and center in the seamy tableau is Paul Michael Martin, the television reporter, whose commentaries and weekly gossip column can make or destroy careers; who trades favors for money from Richard Barone, the blue-chinned financier and real estate speculator who has built a fortune by manipulating Chicago aldermen and bending the laws when he doesn't break them.

To "P.M.," the breasts of a passing secretary are "like tumbling melons escaping the grocer's hands." Lechery is his obsession, hobby and stock in trade, and it is not long before Ann Marie is drawn into his treacherous embrace. But their close encounters -- first in a seedy hotel suite maintained by P.M.'s office and later in the apartment loaned to him by Richard Barone, who naturally has them filmed by a hidden camera -- are more like contests than seductions.

The reader is mostly not obliged to observe the struggle in the customary Masters-and-Johnson detail. Often, in fact, P.M. has scarcely loosened his tie before Ann Marie wants to enlist his help in some power play or plot for revenge. On one steamy occasion, in her city hall office, ("Hold my calls"), he falls off her leather couch and twists his ankle before things could reach my blush threshold.

So there is much to be grateful for, and they richly deserve each other. Even though she finally throws him out, you can't help feeling that with flattery and cajolery he could buy his way back.

I should add that a series of grisly homosexual murders threads its sinister way through the book, with seemingly little connection to the main events. Only in time for the big-bang finale does everything come together on center stage. By this time the story has become so gripping that you feel like phoning Chicago to make sure the city's still there. filmed by a hidden camera--are more like contests than seductions.

The reader is mostly not obliged to observe the struggle in the customary Masters-and-Johnson detail. Often, in fact, P.M. has scarcely loosened his tie before Ann Marie wants to enlist his help in some power play or plot for revenge. On one steamy occasion, in her city hall office, ("Hold my calls"), he falls off her leather couch and twists his ankle before things could reach my blush threshold.

So there is much to be grateful for, and they richly deserve each other. Even though she finally throws him out, you can't help feeling that with flattery and cajolery he could buy his way back.

I should add that a series of grisly homosexual murders threads its sinister way through the book, with seemingly little connection to the main events. Only in time for the big-bang finale does everything come together on center stage. By this time the story has become so gripping that you feel like phoning Chicago to make sure the city's still there.