The author's urbane, introspective art-investment expert Tim Simpson (A Back Room in Somers Town) in a second outing. Tim gets an excited call from his antique-dealer friend Peter Blackwell and within hours finds him shot to death. The police are sure it's simple robbery, but Tim is convinced that Peter's search for a rare Godwin sideboard is behind the killing. Retracing Peter's path before the call brings him to the seedy town of Hastings, shady furniture-dealer Belgy Klooster and an introduction to Belgy's US customers Marianne Gray and Tony Applemore. Marianne makes a successful play for Tim, who's getting nowhere with his sleuthing until Belgy turns up murdered and the pieces start to fit. There'll be a rude awakening for our hero but a fitting vengeance for his friend's death before it's all over. The author's enthusiasm for England's 19th-century arts and crafts can sometimes glaze the mind. The plotting is fuzzier, with more sex and violence, than in Malcolm's debut novel; but, still, Tim remains a lively creation--a meanie when roused and capable of a nifty turn of phrase. Fun for the literate and a bonanza for the antique-minded.