CIA/caper shenanigans at the U.S. Embassy, Rome--in a breezy, often arch first novel that's long on whimsical plot turns and cartoony sex, short on believable characters and real charm. Robert Kley is Third Political Officer at the Embassy, and he's just been ordered to look into a startling accusation by old Embassy hand Col. Marcus McKean: McKean believes that the CIA, via the Embassy, is funding a Fascist group (the Nuovi) which itself is funding Communist terrorists in order to stir up anti-Communist sentiment and trigger a coup d'Ã‰tat! So Kley begins investigating (the Nuovi offer him a bribe, everyone stonewalls him), while McKean himself looks into a personal problem: his no-good son Karl has impregnated and abandoned an Italian woman, and when McKean begins keeping watch over her (incognito), the two wind up in bed (""he feels his old soldier's cock rising to attention after so many years on the retired list""). This, of course, is a distraction in Kley & McKean's efforts to expose the coup d'Ã‰tat plans--as is Kley's hot fling with erotic, drug-dealing neighbor Gaby, whom Kley must help to flee the country after a drug bust. Then, however, Kley (enraged by Embassy skulduggery against him and McKean) trails top Embassy man Cunningham, catches him in the act of handing over $1 million, and. . . accidentally shoots Cunningham--fatally. At this point, though there's a scrap of subplot about a Nuovi/Communist plot to bomb the Embassy, the novel shifts into caper territory--as Kley and Gaby grab the $1 million and vamoose in the direction of Monte Carlo, pursued by McKean, who now wants to start a new life in the U.S. with his mistress (even if she does want to marry his son instead of him). Finally, then, the Nuovi plots are exposed, the Embassy is saved, McKean dies, the money disappears, and Kley winds up happy with Gaby. Busy, busy--but neither meek Kley nor crusty McKean is sharply drawn enough to hold it all together. And, aside from one nice moment when Kley tries to explain a Cole Porter lyric to Gaby (""Cold Porter?"" she asks), Collin's quasi-comic approach (lots of sophomoric pseudo-giggles) mostly just adds to the atmosphere of halfhearted frittering. Italian politics, so-so satire on Embassy deadheads, thriller clichÃ‰s, dabs of soap and sex--an occasionally diverting mess from a writer with a smidgin of style, little taste, and (apparently) nothing in particular to write about.