January 27, 2003 12:00 PM

by John Case

Sculptor Danny Cray likes to boast that he’s an artist, but when the bills come due, he’s less a Michelangelo than a Mike Hammer, not averse to taking the cash that a mysterious Euro-tycoon offers him to do a little freelance detective work.

The deal turns deliciously sinister as Cray confronts five gory murders, mind-boggling technology and a Satan worshipper. From Washington, D.C., where Cray is a part-time legal gumshoe, the action bounces to Italy, Turkey, Silicon Valley and Switzerland in a race to save the world from a billionaire madman.

The tempo is equally crazed, the locales exotic, and the characters—including a modern Turkish prince fighting an ancient family war—intriguing. Occasional stretches of stilted dialogue and improbable twists seem a small price for a breakneck yarn of good vs. evil. (Ballantine, $25.95)

BOTTOM LINE: Fast-paced Case

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