By Stephen L. Carter
528 pages. Knopf.
"Focus. Scintillate. Intimidate." That's one key to political dominance in Stephen L. Carter's canny new thriller, Palace Council (Knopf), which ranges from exclusive 1950s Harlem drawing rooms to Washington enclaves where power corrupts and elegant conspiracies are born, from the lairs of 1960s radicals to the hellish haunts of torturers. Tip: Don't ignore the references to Paradise Lost; they'll take you places where angels fear to tread.