The world's a perilous place indeed, full of moral ambiguity and inscrutable Asian mystique, in Lustbader's (Black Blade, 1993, etc.) second installation of the Kaisho series. While piecing together clues of an international criminal bombing plot, Nicholas Linnear must locate Mikio Okami, the Japanese Mafia godfather he finds morally reprehensible but has sworn to his father to protect. Okami is in hiding because most of the other characters want him dead. His closest Japanese associates want to move past petty business profits and arms sales into drug trafficking. American mobster ``Bad Clams'' Leonforte has an unhealthy interest in tracking Okami, possibly because he is the adversary of Okami's former partner, the brutally murdered Dominic Goldoni, or because he is involved with Senator Dedalus, who coordinates illegal arms trades from a Washington, DC, strip joint. Linnear pursues the Asian connection and, while there, an old flame, while his pal Lew Croaker sleuths in the States, a job that includes tailing Goldoni's sister, Margarite, with whom, if that don't beat all, he's in love. Occasional telephone conversations between Linnear and Croaker recap their progress in tracing Okami and digging up the details on Torch, a powerful, portable nuclear weapon scheduled to detonate in some unspecified city. Until then, it is housed with its creator, a Russian cyberneticist and defector, in Floating City, the Vietnamese stronghold of Rock, an American veteran who had too much fun firing his missile launcher to ever leave Vietnam. While mingling with these politicians and gangsters, the heroes rely upon their unique resources: Linnear upon his tanjian—a psychic discipline that converts thought into action—and Croaker upon his biomechanical, titanium-sheathed left hand. Honorable bad guys and elaborate secrets mingle with the usual senseless violence and sensual, exploited Asian women. Whoever makes it to the end of this entangled thriller will find that the loose ends make the next Linnear installment a must-read.
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