Attempting to do for English antiques what Dick Francis has done for English thoroughbreds, Gash puts narrator-hero-dealer Lovejoy (so virile he has no first name) on the trail of the Judas Pair, a legendary set of 18th-century flintlock dueling pistols: a dealer who claimed to have acquired them is found bored through the forehead (but no sign of a bullet), and his brother wants the guns and the assassin located. Lovejoy's reluctant assignment (he needs the money) takes him to auctions, shops, collectors, and barkers (scouts)--and takes ""Dear reader"" through classes on how-to-bargain, how-to-tell-real-jade, and what-is-an-Elizabethan-flea-box. Unlike Francis, however, who teaches the horse game without letting you know you're being taught, Gash's lessons are crudely inserted (""Digression time, folks"") and vaguely hysterical (""No? Yes! Read on""), interrupting the barely serviceable plot. And Lovejoy's jokey, jerky manner--replete with sophomoric pronouncements on Love and Women--is too pervasive for him to change the tone (""No jokes from now on, folks"") when his girlfriend is pushed under an oncoming train by the antiquing culprit. Still, Lovejoy survives a nifty ordeal (baked in a priest's hole while his cottage burns), and he offers enough pearls of insider information to excuse--at least, for those interested in Chippendale, copper tokens, or faÃ¯ence jardiniÃ¨res--a multitude of literary sins.