Renegade British agent Charlie Muffin has undeniably become a series character (Charlie M, Here Comes Charlie M) -- but Freemantle is too good a writer to churn out formula sleuthings; though roguishly brief, Charlie's exploits are more like miniature Le Carres than detective/spy quickies. This time surly Charlie, though now something of a wanted man, agrees to go incognito to Hong Kong as a favor to loyal pal Rupert Willoughby, son of his late lamented British Intelligence boss: Willoughby's insurance company has written an 8 million-pound policy on Asian millionaire J.L. Lu's ""University of Freedom"" ocean-liner -- and someone has just blown up this floating anti-Communist university in Hong Kong harbor. Can Charlie find some way to save Willoughby from paying and going bankrupt? An unlikely prospect; the bombing seems to have been the work of two ""Communist"" lackeys (who both die of poison in the dock when they're brought to trial!). But then Charlie learns that Willoughby's Hong Kong representative Robert Nelson is living with the ex-girlfriend of Lu's son -- the entire insurance/bombing scheme has been rigged as the young Lu's face-saving revenge on Nelson! But how to prove it? Only by going to Peking to get evidence from the Lu-employed cook who poisoned those lackeys; and Charlie finds the Chinese Communists oh-so-happy to help him get the goods on anti-Communist, corrupt tycoon Lu. One added complication: a fumbling CIA agent who might a) gum up the works, and/or b) expose Charlie as the CIA archenemy he became in previous Muffin volumes. Tightly plotted, crisply character-ed, and blessed with Muffin/Freemantle repartee at its sharpest, this is a mini-marvel of neat intrigue with only one looming drawback: the constant awareness that Freemantle is surely capable of far richer, more original work.