What novelist T. Jefferson Parker does so well in Where Serpents Lie (and in such previous high-octane outings as Laguna Heat and Pacific Beat) is to bind his characters tightly to the territory in which they live and die--the mostly scorched and urbanized but occasionally still pristine turf of Southern California's Orange County. When he's not running the Crimes Against Youth unit at the Orange County Sheriff's Department, Terry Naughton sits in a cave in Laguna Canyon, drinking tequila, smoking cigars, and trying to understand the twisted mind of a particularly vicious child molester called The Horridus. The serpents of the title are real, as is the terror Parker manages to evoke with the intense power of his writing. "I knew that there was no way that Lauren would ever have her childhood replaced with a better one," Naughton says about a 9- year-old girl sold for sex by her parents. "Lauren had the resigned eyes and the aura of passive invincibility found in nearly all children who have escaped to the last place they can go--to the private, silent cave of their own selves."