A hitman comes out of retirement to rescue his kidnapped fiancée
After he stops killing for money, Sidney Holden tries to live discreetly. He takes a Manhattan apartment in the Copenhagen building, a few blocks from where John Lennon died, and attempts to make a new life with his fiancée, Fay, former daughter-in-law of the district attorney. But as the quiet months pass, Fay grows distant and suicidal, and finally disappears, removed by the district attorney to a mental hospital where Holden cannot reach her. Hungry for a last taste of action, a billionaire ex-gangster named Phipps offers to help Holden get her back. The ninety-two-year-old Phipps hires Holden to run a counterfeiting scheme, using Fay’s whereabouts as bait. But the closer Holden gets to Phipps’ operation, the less he trusts the old man. And with the DA and the mafia closing on him, Holden may not stay alive long enough to rescue his darling from her prison.
Sidney Holden, the well-known ``bumper'' (read: hit man) previously introduced in Paradise Man , makes his home in a world ``where there are no rules.'' So he's immune to surprise when he is brought out of retirement by Howard Phipps, 92 years old and the acknowledged king of the underworld--and, in a former incarnation, possibly the world's greatest cantor. A serious leak threatens to sink Phipps's empire, but while Holden is attempting to locate and plug it, Phipps is busy launching elaborate schemes to destroy him. Thus Holden and Phipps become locked in a sort of danse macabre which variously includes the Queens (N.Y.) DA; Holden's mistress (the DA's depressive daughter-in-law) and his ex-partner; Phipps's ex-wife and his putative daughter; and an array of ``business'' associates. Elsinore, Hamlet's castle and here the name of a residence for the insane, aptly connotes the semifantastic atmosphere and inhabitants of this wacky but delightful story, just as Charyn's polished pacing fuels the exuberantly complicated plot.