Melbourne, 1989. The latest ministerial scramble has tossed Angelo Agnelli from his safe berth in Ethnic Affairs into the maelstrom of Water Supply And The Arts, and his political advisor, Murray Whelan, is maneuvering to shake every new hand without getting shaken down by artists and impresarios avid to secure government backing for their pet projects. Murray is especially wary of a recent winner of the Australian-largesse sweepstakes, Cultural Affairs Policy Commissioner Lloyd Eastlake, who persuaded Agnelli's predecessor Gil Methven to give shoe mogul Max Karlin a whopping $600,000 for Our Home, the late Victor Szabo's magisterial painting of a suburban lawnmower, by raising half the money from corporate donors. And Murray's suspicions zoom off the chart when he finds a copy of Our Home among the effects of unappreciated painter Marcus Taylor, who drowned himself in the National Gallery moat, despite improbably shallow water, a recent grant, and a surprisingly rosy financial balance-sheet, in protest against government indifference to the arts. What's the connection between spurned Taylor and Szabo's painted poem to the bourgeoisie? And is there anybody, in the current administration or not, who isn't party to the rondolet of felonies--fraud, forgery, bribery, homicide, and questionable aesthetic judgment--that Murray's antic investigations reveal? Maloney's debut, winner of the Ned Kelly Prize, Australia's Edgar, is funny, inventive, and tonic for all Americans worried that they have a corner on official corruption. The best news of all may be Murray's hint that plenty of bodies remain buried for the sequel.