Old virtues collide with a new world order's bottom-line values in another of Thomas's classy, cautionary tales of big-time business (Black Money, 1994, etc.) The securities markets are baffled when GIA, a high-flying multinational run by John (Jack) Mannerman, acquires Baker Extractive Engineering Corp., a failing manufacturer. The takeover, it develops, is an expedient favor done during an election year for an influential congressman in whose district BEECO is based, but H.A. Baker, the archetypal WASP whose family has undermined the firm's competitiveness with overly paternal policies, takes Mannerman at his word when he pledges to revivify the company. The slippery conglomerateur's commitment soon proves inch-deep; he simply charges Lucy Preston, his VP for investor relations, with explaining the dubious deal to Wall Street. While easing the financial community's anxieties, Lucy drifts into an affair with Baker, a charmer from the old school whose prowess as a globe- trotting hunter far exceeds his managerial talents. When Mannerman pulls the plug on BEECO, however, the aging preppie dumps her in a rage. Word eventually comes from Africa that Baker has been eaten by crocodiles. Thereafter, two of GIA's superstar TV personalities- -the executive overseeing its media enterprise, and the investment banker who engineered the sale of BEECO--meet gruesome ends. Her suspicions aroused, Lucy begins digging into Baker's demise. Soon convinced that her ex-lover is alive, well, and killing off those whom he believes betrayed his trust, she resolves to stop him. With help from a handful of unlikely allies, Lucy finally puts paid to the crazed Baker (who's assumed a most clever disguise) on a Christmas Eve in Venice, where he hopes to slaughter a number of fat cats gathered to celebrate Mannerman's 15th anniversary as CEO of GIA. A vastly entertaining--if less than credible--tale of socioeconomic crimes and punishment, leavened as usual with the author's sharp asides on contemporary commerce and tastes.