The theft of five paintings from the house of a South African collector is the catalyst for a complex plot of murder, forgery, and political intrigue. Since he doesn't want to report the theft officially, the paintings' owner, Sir Cas Greyling, asks alcoholic Michael Meade, a once-glittering American reporter playing out his last chance, to track down whoever hired the four thieves and then killed them before they left the grounds. In practically no time, Meade has identified Greyling's houseguest Rita Hess for the theft and gallery-owner Farrell DeBruin's father Gideon, an inner-circle member of the spiderlike secret society the Broederbond, as the killer. But the further Meade looks, the more complicated the case gets. The most valuable of the paintings--a Vermeer that was the thieves' real target--was almost certainly a forgery. They didn't want the painting, but a mysterious document hidden inside it, something called the missing sixth dating back to the Nazi seizure of the Vermeer. And Meade and his allies--Farrell DeBruin and black South African reporter Cam Fazzie--get caught in a murderous, three-continent cross-fire between Gideon, who doesn't mind kidnaping both Meade's son Sean and his own daughter to keep up the pressure on Meade, and the Broederbond stalwarts who don't want Gideon taking over. Maybe a little too helter-skelter in its closing sections- -Graham (The Harbinger, 1988) has the extraordinary idea that Jerusalem's Western Wall would be an easy place to smuggle a bomb- -but richly, compulsively readable until its last surprising twist.