The author is in rare form with this saga of a psychopathic killer for hire, his enigmatic mentor and the policeman who almost catches up with them. The killer's visible persona is Lados, a wildly eccentric and financially successful abstract painter. His widely spaced secret missions are arranged only through master gunsmith Karl Frisch, who lives on the moors with teen-aged, eyeless Anne and under whose tutelage our villain becomes nÃºmero uno in the world of paid assassins. His first job, in the 60's--the killing of an Italian hit man--intrigues Detective Constable David Hoyle. As Hoyle rises in rank and years pass, the unclosed file on that murder gathers bits and pieces of information. Then when Lados, against his better judgment, takes on a kind of CIA assignment, it's the long-ago killing that's almost his undoing. Pages of gun lore; lovingly detailed descriptions of every hit; heavy ranting on the workings of police hierarchy; purple patches and coincidence--all typical Wainwright--but this story sails above it all and takes the reader with it. The author's best in years.