When one-handed pickpocket Edgar meets American ex-med student Jay Coker at a London welfare office, their conversation turns to Karl Marx--who happens to be buried in Highgate Cemetery in the northern suburbs. How much would the various Marxist governments and factions pay to have a piece of old Karl himself? With take-charge accomplice Angela Carruthers and an elegantly simple-shrewd gambit, they make off with Karl's bones and invite bids (""A Strictly Limited Issue Comprising the Authenticated Items of the Ossature of Karl Heinrich Marx""). Hundreds of icon-hungry Communist parties respond, so the trio obviously needs a middleman: enter a Communist honcho in Italy, where some Swiss-bank-type transactions go awry, due mostly to the greedy interference of Angela's foul, estranged husband. A whimsically literate, endearingly arch caper--with an unlikely romance and a ludicrously impossible mix-up with another bag of bones as all members of the crooked trio survive all sorts of Italianate violence.