When she seems to be looking toward an alternative supplier from London, Keith Vine regretfully murders Eleri Vaughan, the aging drug pusher he’s got working aboard a ship-turned-restaurant, but then he insists on doing his level best for her corpse. Eleri’s exequies at the hands of caring Keith and Chief Superintendent Colin Harpur, whom he’s recently put on his payroll, are a perfect introduction, for readers who missed the earlier installments (Top Banana, p. 27, etc.) to this dark soap opera of crooked cops and self-respecting crooks. Keith just wants Harpur to hold his hand as he fights off the London source dubbed Lovely Mover; club owner Panicking Ralph Ember, worried about his own future in these uncertain times, just wants some security for the bond Keith’s asking him to float to underwrite a proper house for Keith, his love interest Becky, and their son Charles; Harpur, whose undercover assignment seems to be secret only to Chief Constable Mark Lane, just wants to get the goods on Keith’s own suppliers without getting his own hands too dirty. The characters waste scarcely a syllable in clarifying the tangled plot, but they stand always ready to expatiate hilariously on the decline of personal loyalty, the value of classical literature in translation, and of course those questions of funeral etiquette. James has perfected a style of ironic blather that makes nearly every scene a classic, though the resolution of Keith’s problems doesn’t do justice to James’s central conceit. Only the full series can do that.