When two jaded government agents team up with three veteran con-men to carry out a $5-million courier mission, the result--this beluga Ross Thomas thriller (if not one of his very best)--is a nonstop festival of double-crossing, triple-crossing, quicky dialogue, cynical panache, and cheerfully violent action. Booth Stallings, 60, terrorism expert and former White House advisor, is out of work--and therefore responsive--when approached by a shady D.C. influence-peddler about a special assignment: Stallings is to deliver $5-million to key Philippine guerrilla leader Alejandro Espiritu, who has agreed to retire to Hong Kong with the money. (Stallings' fee? $500,000. The source of the money? Unknown. Why Stallings? Because he and Espiritu were WW II comrades together against the Japanese.) Stallings accepts the mission--but immediately decides to work a scare whereby he'll grab the whole $5 million, sharing it with his hand-picked team: cosmopolitan con-man ""Otherguy"" Overby; and the Philippine-based adventurer, duo of Attic Wu (huge, elegant, charming) and Quincy Durant (lean, tough, sexy). Things get more dicey when this quartet is joined by gorgeous, shrewd ex-Secret Service operative Georgia Blue (Durant's bygone flame), who has been hired by the mission's secret backer to guard the cash--but who promptly agrees to join in the big scam. And while all of these con-artists are out-guessing and out-faking each other, new complications proliferate: a series of murders in Manila, which may relate to the mission; the enigmatic motives of Espiritu's surly young wife, who's supposed to lead Stallings to the guerrilla hide-out; and the real motives of the mission's secret backer--which become clear (though they're guessable) only in a Hong Kong finale of cash-grabbing. The intricate trickiness of the plotting here sometimes seems a bit labored and mechanical. None of the principal characters has as much offbeat charm as the most appealing Thomas heroes. But, if not quite as insouciant, surprising, and original as vintage Thomas, this is still unusually clever and flavorsome by action-suspense standards--and, with help from a $100,000 PR campaign, may make a solid commercial impression.