Celebrated New York painter Susan Melville--whose work now commands six-figure prices and whose background gives her entree to the best people and places--is also an assassin-for-hire, killing only authentic villains beyond normal channels of justice (Miss Melville Regrets, etc.). Susan is now obsessed by a personal vendetta--to eliminate Relempago Martillo, brutal president of tiny La Predera in South America, whom she's convinced killed her father Buckley (an absconding financier) 20-odd years before. Since Martillo never leaves his untouristed country, Susan is delighted when handsome young Prederan artist Gil Frias seeks her help in establishing a New York career. With time and intimacy (anthropologist Peter Franklin, Susan's steady, is at a conference in Nepal), she learns that Martillo is to arrive secretly in the city to address the U.N. But her elaborate scheme to polish him off is foiled by a last-minute twist as silly as the rest of this contrived muddle. Despite some amusing barbs at US foreign policy, well-heeled socialites and New Age acolytes, Susan's charm falls flat, and her enthusiasm for her clandestine work leaves sour vibes in post-Lockerbie times. A waste of the author's considerable but undisciplined talents.