Harris puts on a southern Californian magic show in this bravura l6th novel (Glad Rags, 1991, etc.) about an art-gallery owner who takes the gamble of his life. A year after the death of his wife Killian, Harry De Spain is still mooching around his house in the privileged oceanside sanctuary of Orange Bay, mourning her obsessively while unable to console his 13-year-old son Peter (who has a ``surrogate father'' in Henry Fang, their elderly, decadent Chinese-American neighbor). Harry needn't worry about his modestly successful gallery, bought (like the house) with Killian's money and managed expertly by his assistant Dorothy, but he does need a ``home manager'' (though not one who might tempt him to forget Killian). He settles on Velda Venn, a plain-faced welfare recipient who, like most women, is wild about Harry, considering him ``the most beautiful man in the world.'' In a dazzlingly executed transformation, Velda makes herself an object of desire by first stripping and then setting herself on fire with a bottle of Aquavit. Harry, shocked out of his Killian-brooding, is now hooked on Velda. Meanwhile, his enigmatic brother-in-law Golo tells him of an extraordinary painting, supposedly by the much-in-demand Rumanian Vlach, that's stored in a London warehouse. Cash down, no questions asked. To impress Velda with his dealer's manhood, Harry goes for it. Has he been set up? Will Velda stand by her man? The surprises and transformations keep on coming for the variously innocent and corrupt inhabitants of Orange Bay, mesmerized by the ocean and backlit by a sensibility hauntingly reminiscent of Iris Murdoch. A veteran novelist at the top of his form.