By the time David Hanna Shaw is shuttled off to an Ivy League school by his preoccupied mother, the brilliant young linguist is already fluent in a half dozen languages. He's also a quick study in international swindling, deceit, drug smuggling, and currency profiteering. That's what comes from having been dragged across every European capital by a mendacious diplomat father. Then, one day, innately unsettled and anxious, David suddenly disappears from campus. Finally on his own and living only for himself, David heads back to Europe, where he becomes a professional drifter, taking on odd jobs as everything from a brothel handyman in Paris to an occasional courier for a cadre of smugglers in Amsterdam. Swayed by the cash, and a beautiful new lover, David has found his niche – only to be betrayed by his syndicate bosses and left for dead. Now, David's only thoughts are of revenge. But for a smart man like David, murder is too common. The payback he has planned is an intricate game of deception, multiple identities, and psychological torture as ingenious as it is devious. And it should be. After all, David has been taught by a master.
Stanley Ellin (1916–1986) was an American mystery writer known primarily for his short stories. After working a series of odd jobs including dairy farmer, salesman, steel worker, and teacher, and serving in the US Army, Ellin began writing full time in 1946. Two years later, his story "The Specialty of the House" won the Ellery Queen Award for Best First Story. He went on to win three Edgar Awards – two for short stories and one for his novel The Eighth Circle. In 1981, Ellin was honored with the Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master Award. He died of a heart attack in Brooklyn in 1986.
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