Another convoluted, character-rich episode for fat widower Ludo Fender and comely widow Antonia Strachan, both of Britain's Central Crimes Bureau--the anti-corruption unit that was at the center of A State of Corruption (1986). Ludo, now retired, is secretly brought in († la Smiley) to investigate Bureau chief Antrim--who's suspected of improper ties (involving bribes and/or blackmail) to powerful financier Carl Lissack; furthermore, both Antrim and Lissack were clients of a flashy call-girl, now dead under suspicious circumstances. And the plot thickens considerably, if not very persuasively, as Ludo confronts new developments: the suicide (?) of a Bureau agent; the equally fishy death of a paid assassin; and, above all, the revelation that this assassin murdered--via AIDS-virus injection!--Irish cabinet minister Cahill, a fierce opponent of the imminent entente with Britain re Northern Ireland. Who was behind the Cahill killing'? Why were Cahill and Lissack so chummy? Is Antrim corrupt, treasonous, or both? Ludo and Antonia (once Antrim's lover') ponder these questions at talky length, with occasional bits of sleuthing and trapping. But, if the dense storytelling is alternately murky and overobvious, the page-by-page attractions--quirkily distinctive character-vignettes, the nuanced Ludo/Antonia relationship--remain, as in A State of Corruption, substantial.