Nicholas Palihnic, a small-time New York con man, is trying to recover a stolen painting when he's fingered for murder. He's bailed out by Nicasia Grieg, who works for an insurance company and needs Nicholas' expertise. Nicasia's lover, Barney, is reportedly dead in Costa Rica, but Nicasia thinks he's still alive and hires Nicholas to find him. It turns out that Barney is very much alive and in New York to drill for gold that supposedly went down with a ship over a hundred years ago. Nicholas' quest for stolen art leads him to Beatrice Belarus, the powerful owner of a Manhattan art gallery.

It also reunites him with Mel, a former girlfriend, and her precocious young daughter, Dottie. In an unusual turn of events, Mel and her daughter meet Nicholas' brother Garth, a taxidermist (and the protagonist of Wiprud's Pipsqueak and Stuffed), who never has a short supply of samples of his work.

Wiprud's web of cons and double-crosses never ceases as stolen paintings reappear, missing gold is not where it appears to be and career thieves undergo career changes. Readers who enjoy the intricacies of a well-plotted mystery will want to immerse themselves in this quirky, original novel. (Aug., 320 pp., $6.99)
Reviewed by: 
Sheri Melnick