The Maltese Falcon of Nick Polo's tenth case (Beggar's Choice, 1994, etc.) is a gold paitza, a badge of honor that once belonged to Chingis Khan's son. The mysterious ``Anna'' who offered to sell it to Polo's friend Alexander Rostov has dropped back into the shadows, and Rostov doesn't want to miss his chance to own the priceless bauble. But Polo soon finds out that he's competing with an equally well-heeled dealer and his ruthless assistant; a private-eye alumnus of US Military Intelligence and his gung-ho former boss; the manager of the With Love From Russia marriage bureau; and a comely honey pot from Lickie's Tanning Salon, truly a woman for all seasons--and at least one of them doesn't mind winnowing the field with deadly force. A comfy setup, a nice mix of suspects, some insider tips on detective work, and Polo's reliable banter--it all adds up to a product much more reliable than that elusive paitza.