Hill, author of superior mysteries (A Pinch of Snuff) and so-so espionage (The Spy's Wife), now branches out into international conspiracy-suspense-with a crisp, agreeably peopled reworking of the sort of plot that was already old hat when Agatha Christie tried it on in the Twenties. (Not to mention Robert Ludlum in the Seventies.) A human tongue is found on an English beach; an investigative journalist is burned to death. Could these two events be connected? And what might they have to do with Prince Arthur, a handsome young royal who's about to visit Canada? Well, as is soon made dear, some British species of super-Mafioso secret society--using Freemasonry as a cover--is behind the mayhem. And they're also behind a sex/blackmail scheme to control the US political career of rich young Conal Connolly . . . whose sister Deirdre just happens to be the secret lover of Prince Arthur (to the fury of her Irish-American grandfather). So, as Arthur heads for Canada--where he'll rendezvous with Deirdre--the secret assassins are planning all kinds of evil. But someone is catching on to them: cop Doug McHarg, a glum, sardonic widower who used to be the security man for Prince Arthur. Surviving a series of Masonic death-attacks, McHarg investigates the secret society, exposes the society's chief hit-man (who is accidentally killed by McHarg's tart-tongued new love, wheelchair-bound Betty), and then heads for America--to figure out what the society is up to over there . . . and to visit his estranged daughter Flora. (In the novel's most flagrant spot of coincidence, Flora just happens to be the mistress of the third Connolly sibling, a Boston professor.) And so it goes--right up to the predictable shootout/showdown and the unmasking of the society's hitherto-faceless leader. Still, if Hill's plotting is farfetched, contrived, and derivative, his characters are a treat--smart/funny women, endearing bit players, a tough/tender hero--and his scene-by-scene storytelling is sparely effective, with understated jolts of violence. A half-appealing hybrid, then: a corny conspiracy yarn delivered with charm, irony, and laid-back savvy--more akin to Christie and Buchan than Ludlum & Co.