Earl Sommers, furniture expert with the internationally prestigious Speer Galleries in Pittsburgh, is good at his job but otherwise a thorough creep: he steals from boss Amos Speer whenever possible, sleeps with Amos' wife Nedda, makes crude passes at the office secretaries. And then, when Amos discovers a major theft, Sommers protects his job and career by using old friend Charlie Bates (a suicidal loser) to kill Amos. The path thus cleared, Sommers weds Nedda, becomes director of the galleries, and seems to have it all. . . until the past starts catching up with him (for one thing, crazy Charlie hasn't killed himself, as Sommers hoped he would). So, in a heavily ironic conclusion, Sommers will crumble, losing even his reputation for furniture expertise. More Rendell-ish character study than whodunit, with a convincing antique-dealer background, this is a substantial recovery for Paul (The Fourth Wall) after the self-indulgent whimsy of Liars and Tyrants and People Who Turn Blue (p. 399)--though the uniformly charmless and unsavory cast of characters here makes for minimal reader involvement. Overall, then: accomplished but rather unengaging work from a writer who, in her first three books, seems to be trying a variety of suspense genres on for size.