``It was preposterous. Poisoning America's water. Really. At work, she rejected at least two thrillers every month dealing with wicked Arabs poisoning American's water supply. She'd even seen a TV movie about it.'' And now, despite its heroine's misgivings, yet another novel. Literary editor Amelia Pierce's father Arthur has retired from a soft desk-job (wink, wink) as a CIA cryptographer to work in sleepy Puerta Vittoria for the global Hyatt News Service when he's retired again, along with his wife, by a terrorist whose signature is severing his victims' ears (over a hundred so far). Amelia, still reeling from the news of her father's true vocation (```That was why he was never home,' she said softly''), is convinced that she dispatched the killer with a headshot as he pursued her through the Puerta Vittoria swamps. But when she's spirited off to Switzerland to report the deaths to Davis Hyatt, Hyatt's right-hand man Burt Sergeant--who's been dogging the ear collector, Billy Starr, for ten years--insists that he escaped from Puerta Vittoria and is two steps behind Amelia. Certainly somebody's on her trail--a chauffeur and a hospital nurse have already tried to kill her--but is it Billy Starr or somebody even worse, the dreaded Man With No Name? Only two more murder attempts by the improbably butterfingered assassin and a reckless sprint from New York to the Ozark valleys will reveal just which of these compulsively double-dealing spooks--Hyatt, Sergeant, Arthur Pierce's dashing heir- apparent Wade Turner--can be believed about the plot to dump the plague virus that shut down the Puerta Vittoria prison into plumbing across America. A deliriously overgalvanized debut by Stryker, allegedly a pseudonym for two bestselling Edgar-winners. Cold-eyed Billy Starr never would've relied on such a feeble cover story.