A truly offbeat episode for adventurous, knowledgeable Tim Simpson, advisor to the Art Fund at London's White's Bank (Hung Over, 1995, etc.). This 12th installment in the series starts with a call that takes Tim to a meeting with four oddly assorted strangers. They offer him a fine Wyndham Lewis drawing with the promise of a major painting by the same artist to become available shortly. Tim happily buys the drawing--it's some consolation for the problems besetting White's, where the board, without consulting Tim, has taken on tycoon Piers Hargreaves, who's notorious for downsizing, or worse, any enterprise he controls. He's also, it transpires, a collector of Wyndham Lewis, and pressures Tim to take him along for a look at the painting, if it ever materializes. A note from Mr. Brooks, one of the mysterious quartet, brings the news that Frank Smith, another of the four, has been killed in a hit and run. Then comes an aborted meeting with Brooks, as well as Tim's discovery of the hanged body of George Welling--the four now down to two. Back at the bank, meanwhile, various deals are being bruited about--all of them depressing, and all instigated by Hargreaves. When the long-awaited viewing is finally scheduled, it brings Tim to a scene of savagery, a battle for his life, and the barely feasible motive behind it all. The author's style is, as ever, literate and wryly civilized. But a somewhat incoherent plot and a heavy measure of rather specialized lore on art and literature may lessen the general appeal. Art mavens, though, should love every minute.