Charlie Howard, gentleman thief and famous crime-writer, has gone straight. But holing himself up in a crumbling palazzo in Venice in an attempt to concentrate on his next novel hasn't got rid of the itch in his fingers. And to make matters worse, a striking Italian beauty has just broken into his apartment and made off with his most prized possession, leaving a puzzling calling card in its place.It looks as though kicking the habit of a lifetime will be much more of a challenge than Charlie thought. Sneaking out into Venice's maze of murky canals, and trying not to relish being back on the job too much, Charlie's efforts to be reunited with his treasured first-edition of The Maltese Falconquickly embroil him in a plot that is far bigger and more explosive than he could ever have imagined. But by the time he finds himself bundling his first ever hostage into a trunk on a speedboat and on the run from the poliziahe has to admit that he is in way too deep.