The latest descent into the belly of the beast from Ellis (The Informers, 1994, etc.), who shows a surprising stamina for this sort of thing. Now that he has his formula down pat, Ellis--like Andrew Greeley and Stephen King--is both fun and easy to read. His new glare thriller follows a standard cherchezla femme course, in which the venal antihero forsakes greed in favor of lust only to discover than he's been a sucker from the get-go and that dames who shoot real bullets are far too smart to be for real. The patsy here is one Victor Ward, impresario of what promises to be the hottest nightclub in Manhattan if he can ever get money to open it up. Victor has every reason to hope for success, since he went to Camden College and is in tight with the smart set whose presence usually makes or breaks these places. One of his classmates is the actress Jamie Fields, Victor's old girlfriend, who has just disappeared in England during a movie shoot. Whether this is just one of Jamie's tantrums or a sign of foul play remains to be seen, and Victor is offered $300,000 to go over and quietly hunt her down. After a drunken crossing on the QE2, he hooks up with Jamie easily enough and even picks up the romance where they left it off--along with Bobby Hughes, Jamie's bisexual boyfriend. But Bobby seems to have some unsavory contacts, and the mountains of cash, crates of weaponry, and rooms of Palestinian "associates" that cram Bobby's London townhouse all lead Victor to fear that something sinister is afoot. Long before we discover the true identity of Victor's father (who, it may be said, is very influential in Washington, D.C.), we can smell a setup. The only question that remains by then is: Can help arrive in time? Brain candy for the Vanity Fair set.