Everybody at the Contemporary Policy Dynamics Conference, it seems, wants something other than enlightenment about policy dynamics. USIA staffer Alex Moodie wants some explanation of why his wife Deborah's career with the National Health Research Agency has stalled. Aspiring Congressperson Wendy Gardner wants the politician's best friend, ready money. Sharon Bedford wants a job on Wendy's staff, though she makes it clear--well, ""clear"" by the laughably circumlocutory standards of Bowen's Beltway insiders--that she's willing to sell herself, and an undisclosed secret she's hiding, to the highest bidder. Before she can reveal the secret, she's poisoned by a killer with a fine sense of traditional locked-room logistics and self-preservation, and an even lower ethical quotient than the rest of Bowen's D.C. types. It'll take all of veteran Foggy Bottom hand Richard Michaelson's connections, savvy, and sensitivity to nuance to tie Bedford's murder to a macabre anti-abortion prank, an all-too-timely liver transplant for a recipient way down on the list, an unsuspected 1987 coup d'â€štat in Michaelson's favorite government, and a grandly unscrupulous blackmail scheme. Unlike Bowen's increasingly lumpy international intriguers (Corruptly Procured, 1994, etc.), Michaelson's fourth case is as ebullient as his earliest work, filled with hacks so scabrously clever and dialogue so riotously understated that you'll cruise through the whole story with an uninterrupted smirk of complicity.