British novelist Mason (Bethany, 1981; The Illusionist, 1984) takes us south of the border this time, to Brazil, where a heady atmosphere of corruption, greed, and tainted desire fails to breathe much life into this strangely lifeless thriller. Rosa Van Meurs, the schoolteacher daughter of a famous anthropologist, publishes a letter in The Washington Post calling attention to a gold-mining venture illegally constructed on an Indian preserve in the Brazilian hinterlands. The owner of the mine, a wealthy industrialist who is standing for election in Rosa's hometown, has tried to silence her but now finds himself being blackmailed in turn. In the midst of all this, Rosa's cousin Fabio, a young poet and runaway who becomes embroiled in ``the racket'' of illegal infant adoptions, moves in with her in an attempt to escape from his boss's gang. Eventually, Fabio succeeds in saving a child, and Rosa saves her job; but none of this comes as any surprise, and it is hard to know just how it represents any change or development on the part of these characters. The feeling overall is very bleak: Mason writes de profundis, with a moral consciousness that puts one in mind of Graham Greene, but, lacking Greene's subtlety, her moral posturing seems shrill and pretentious, and her characters--the innocent child, the venal politician, the savage gangster, the upright heroine--become mere symbols, rather than emanations, of the good and evil that inform her world. Very bland stuff: a morality tale that will win few converts.