When Ray Guinness' wife Louise is found ice-picked and half burned to death in their San Francisco Bay Area kitchen, English prof. Ray, ""expert on murder, treachery, and the intricacies of Jacobean poetry,"" knows that his past has caught up with him: 15 years before, a totally down-and-out grad student at the U. of London, he somehow became British Security's smoothest, smartest, most prized hit-man--code name ""Summer Soldier."" That line of work cost Ray his first marriage, so he quit and tried to forget, but Misha Vlasov hasn't forgotten that Ray blew up Mrs. Vlasov during a bungled assassination attempt in Italy. Now Vlasov, who defected to the West for one reason only, has evened the score, but he wants more: a showdown, in Los Angeles, at Griffith Park. Enraged Ray is willing, eager even, so he has to sneak down from Frisco to L.A., evading both the cops (who think maybe Ray killed Louise himself) and the CIA, who want to rope Vlasov in. The Griffith Park showdown is just about the least satisfying moment in this extremely well-crafted chunk of amoral, stiff-upper-lipped suspense: Guild's pacing between Ray's recollected past and nightmare present is razor-perfectly timed, readers with the proper bloodthirsty leanings will savor each choreographed execution, and only those with a prejudice against hired killers will fail to be thoroughly absorbed in Ray's tensely shifting, darkly shaded moods.