Winner of this year's John Creasey Award for a crime-fiction debut, Ironside's murder-mystery-cum-chase/romance begins with the death of Hugo Frencham, Britain's Head of Chancery at the High Commission in Delhi: his stabbed body has been found in the garden of his diplomatic bungalow. Was middle-aged, unmarried Hugo killed as a result of sexual exotica? Or was the culprit merely a thief? (Three Tibetan objets d'art are missing from Hugo's suspiciously extensive collection.) But why, then, is there a safe full of gold--$250 million worth--in Hugo's office Those are the initial puzzles for George Sinclair--a bland UK Security sleuth sent to Delhi from London--who enlists the aid of visiting scholar Janey somers, a pert authority on Tibetan matters. Together they do some spotty investigating; the trails lead to currency dealing, artifact smuggling, and a would-be Soviet defector. Then, while Janey takes off for her cultural researchers in Ladakh, Sinclair gets beaten up by some of the late Hugo's shadier associates. But the romantic co-sleuths later reunite in Tibet for the crammed final chapters: discreetly consummated passion; a visit to the In. carnate Lama at Uptak (the secret source of all that gold); plus a mountainous chase/showdown with the primary, standard-issue villain. . .though a slightly more interesting alternative culprit is unmasked at the very end. Passable, literate pastiche--but without the vivid characters or sprightly style that might have given some bounce to such a humdrum (if scenic) scenario.