The heavy demands of a period piece--even if the relatively unexplored period is early-1900s Portugal and Angola--seem to have taken the wind out of the sails of that Wind Chill Factor man. Or perhaps the trappings are on hand to conceal the thinness and twistlessness of the fact-based plot: undertaker's son and selftaught engineer Aires Reis, having embezzled and lost a fortune in untamed Angola, devises a scheme to inject two million escudos into the pathetic Angolan economy--not home-made counterfeits, but notes printed in England by order (forged) of the Bank of Portugal. Keeping the full extent of the flimflam hidden even from his Portuguese, Dutch, and German confederates, Aires forges a papel selado, a Bank director's letter, and other documents, packs the fresh bills into made-to-order Vuitton bags, puts them into profitable circulation, and, before he's tripped up by a technical error and an on-the-rise Salazar, comes close to his goal--control of the Bank of Portugal and the whole of Angola. No wonder mistressactress Greta Nordlund (wife Maria ""had never drained him so thoroughly, so insistently"") calls him her ""thunderbolt."" No wonder neglected, fertile Maria goes on spending sprees, ""trying to buy back happiness."" Alves--except for his attachment to P. G. Wodehouse--is as unappealing and colorless a rogue as ever ripped off an escudo, and Gifford has overestimated both the universal fascination with ""money, money, money"" and his own ability to pad a Wall St. Journal feature story into a big, bulging romance-adventure.