The intrigues grow more cerebral, the border-crossings are mostly metaphorical now, but Ambler is still a master of suspense, even when the war is verbal and the war zone is a villa on the Riviera. Paul Firman, tax adviser and alleged extortionist, is the besieged tenant, stalked by an unwanted houseguest--that ""criminological Munchhausen,"" Professor Krom, who sees Firman as the perfect case study to clinch his theory of the ""Able Criminal."" Unless Firman becomes the ""Mr. X"" data-bank that Krom and his academic cronies seek, Krom will give the authorities evidence of an incriminating Firman alias. As the scientist and his subject cross tongues over facts, fictions, each other's ethics, and fine points (""tax avoidance"" vs. ""tax evasion""), Firman defensively recalls for us his life amid Swiss banks, security codes, and dummy. corporations: his mentor, Carlo, who taught him how to launder funds embezzled by corrupt Occupation forces; his alliance with Mat Tuakana, a bisexual moneywhiz determined to turn his Placid Island birthplace into the ultimate tax haven; his devotion to circumventing laws rather than breaking them. But before Krom and crew can be convinced of Firman's virtues, threatening phone calls, mysterious parked cars, and minor explosions change the game from oneupmanship to survival: it seems that Firman's buddy Mat would rather eliminate the Villa Lipp than risk a leak that would endanger his plans for Placid Island. Loyalty among friends, grudging trust among enemies, honor among thieves (but not among professors)--these are Ambler's themes, and they're threaded with the edgy humor and worldly-wise bitterness of our semi-endearing narrator. Firman warns one of Mat's phone-calling henchmen: ""You're mixing metaphors on an open line, Frank."" You can be sure that Eric Ambler would never mix his metaphors, write an ungraceful line, or tell you a story you don't want to hear.