The chic yet shabby world of international art-dealers--in a knowledgeable, mildly satiric, slackly plotted clutch of domestic strains and shady transactions. Center of the most attention (but without the appeal or steady focus of a satisfactory hero) is 37-year-old Vincent Germain, who finds his marriage to tetchy would-be artist Sarah crumbling . . . while he also finds himself tainted by association with a totally unprincipled ""runner"" (middle-person) named Poppea Vlassoff: thanks to sloppy, voluptuous, chutzpahtic Poppea, Vincent will wind up having sold three fake Max Ernsts, a loss of $120,000. Meanwhile--as Vincent dabbles in angst and adultery (with art-journalist Donna)--we follow the two other knots of business/home conflict. There's Vincent's sometime associate Olga, a smart and beautiful creature who's mired in a servile relationship with selfish celebrity-artist John Partridge; eventually she'll tear herself away to concentrate on her own career. And there's Vincent's foul father AndrÃ‰, Paris dealer and art-magazine publisher: he's just sold (knowingly) a fake Chagall; he's rotten to his mistress-employee, gawky Therese (42-year-old mother of illegitimate baby Igor); he's about to dump wife-partner Viola for a more advantageous mate; he's blackmailing a prestigious N.Y. dealer; and he's forever stabbing Vincent in the back. So finally, while AndrÃ‰ gets some of what he deserves from Viola, essentially altruistic (and quite faceless) Vincent ends up where he should have been all along: teaching art-history. No suspense, skin-deep characters, a rather stiff sense of humor--and the art-world (like the dealers' ""ring"" at auctions) is much less well dramatized here than in Frank McDonald's Provenance (1979). But, with lots of elegant food and some nice snooty details (e.g., the description of the tasteless hodgepodge at a top dealer's Fifth Ave. manse), this may be moderately entertaining for readers more interested in vicarious culture than a strong story.