A second tangled outing for the author's neurotic, rich, widowed security-expert Joanna Stark (The Cavalier in White, 1986). This time Joanna sees a chance to settle old accounts with art thief Antony Parducci, long ago her lover (and father of her son E.T.), who deserted her when she became pregnant and whose stamp is on the recent thefts of two of a series of Breughel paintings. Calling in old favors, Joanna involves London art-dealer Christopher Burgess and seedy, small-time crook Matt Wickins in a harebrained plot to trap Parducci, using as bait the well-publicized discovery of another of the Brueghel series--in reality a well-done fake. The scam, supposedly approved by an appropriate Scotland Yard official, goes predictably awry, leading a frustrated, double-crossed Joanna into the scummiest parts of London and, three killings later, to the remote outreaches of Falmouth and a last showdown with the now-maddened Parducci. Joanna, least attractive of the author's several heroines, seems to intensify her creator's penchant for pulpy melodrama that swiftly becomes tedious. Low-level Muller.