Like Robert B. Parker (below), Emma Lathen has caught the pervasive terrorist bug. But even if you're sick of kidnaps and ransoms, stick with Lathen to the clever end and you'll be un-terroristically rewarded. You won't, however, get as much as you probably want of pin-striped banker-sleuth John Putnam Thatcher, who's pushed pretty much offstage by this busy plot's busy cast. There's Wiley Davidson, a U.S. oil company expert on North Sea drilling, who's kidnapped in Istanbul by ""Black Tuesday,"" eventually released (upon payment of over a million), and then blown up in his car in Houston. There's Davidson's estranged Italian wife, a second victim. And there are all manner of slimy oil execs in London and Houston upon whom Thatcher and Charlie Trinkam must lavish their bank's full services. A shrewd sketch of Houston, business' big boom town, and lively hip negotiations of all kinds--just not quite enough humorous N.Y. focus for us fans of J. P. Thatcher and Miss Corsa.