A close-to-the-wind American expatriate gets involved with some drug smugglers even more dubious than he is: an artsy homage to the pulp fiction and films noirs of the Forties. ``I remember nothing,'' the femme fatale tells small-time thief Eddie Verlaine on their first meeting in an Amsterdam bar. ``Nothing. Only my name...Jana. And that I need a lot of money.'' Two pages later, she's asking how much he'll pay to sleep with her, and then we're off and running, as Eddie follows Jana's directions to an address where he finds, not her friend Margo Bellini, but plausible, nasty Werner Brandt, who takes Eddie for $400 before Margo arrives and sends him briskly on his way. Jana returns, but only to entangle Eddie with Ralph and Veronica, who sell counterfeit fur coats; with the blustering Inspector van Velden; and with a plot to have the unsuspecting (!) Eddie smuggle a pound of heroin back home to London, where the smugglers will splinter into a bevy of free-lancers avid to sell each other out for another hit. The change in international scenery does nothing to open out the effectively sustained sense of claustrophobia; even when Eddie's attentions shift to his movie-star wife Claudia Lansdale and her doper rock-star bedmate Trenton Lee, the threats, betrayals, and double-crosses still seem to be taking place in the same dark rooms. So when Jana asks Eddie to take the cash proceeds of the sale back over to Amsterdam for the finale, no true noir fan will need to ask how it all ends. First-novelist Veronese provides his characters with so little background (apart from their innumerable absent prototypes) or reason for us to care about them that their elaborate intrigues seem weightless, and the novel like a Hollywood film treatment sorely in need of star power. Still, it may provide a few bittersweet hours for nostalgia junkies.
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