Exasperating. Once again, Melville meticulously dissects the Japanese culture and quite wonderfully characterizes the various men of Kobe's Hyogo police precinct--while giving the plot a lack of care usually associated with first drafts. In his ninth adventure (Go Gently, Gaijin, etc.), Supt. Otani assigns Inspector Kimura to oversee ""Mode International,"" a high-fashion to-do at the Tamahimeden wedding hall, which has been sponsored by Madame Yasuda with the financial backing of her former lover Yutaka Watanabe, a retailing tycoon. Invited participants: designers Wesley Wilberfroce (British), Jean Claud Villon (French), Marion Norton (American), Tsutomu Kubota (Paris-based Japanese), plus their assorted seconds-in-command, models, fashion reporters (Kimura's new gal Mie, for one; Kubota's ex-wife Selena Stoke-Lacy, for another), and, to act as commentator, the well-known, TV star (and out-of-the, closet into-everyone's-hair lesbian) Kuniko Doi. Anonymous letters arrive threatening trouble at the Tamahimeden; then Watanabe stands under a falling chandelier and, finally, Wilberforce, in a garish caricature of wedding garb, is strangled with an obi. All, it turns out, for inane reasons--which you won't believe for a moment. Still, Otani's wife's encounter with a victim is, realistically, upsetting, the couple's restaurant stroll pleasing, and Insp. Hara's mellowing into niceness appealing--as are the descriptions of Nightingale girls, a sidetrip with the Rokko District Bonsai Club, and the SWOT technique for planning marketing campaigns. Both splendid and awful, typical of Melville.